Our energy use

How Defra is changing its energy use to bring about sustainable improvements in efficiency and performance.

Greening government

All government departments are committed to improving their sustainability performance in line with the ‘Greening Government Commitments.

Defra’s performance against these commitments will be published here quarterly:

Becoming more energy efficient

We’ve made significant progress in reducing our carbon emissions. In March 2010 we achieved a 29% carbon reduction from our office estate (from a 1999 to 2000 baseline), exceeding the 2010 target by 17%. During the ‘10% CO2 reduction target year’ (May 2010 to May 2011), we improved on this by delivering a further 11.6% reduction.

This target has been achieved through a number of measures, which include:

  • adjusting our heating and ventilation systems to improve efficiency and better manage occupant comfort
  • reducing the temperature in our buildings to 19°C during the winter months - contributing to a 23% reduction in gas use
  • raising the cooling temperature in many of our server rooms to 23 to 24°C
  • replacing more inefficient lighting systems
  • improving insulation and draft-proofing of our buildings
  • engaging with staff to get their ideas and tips for reducing energy consumption and encouraging them to reduce the amount of energy they use

Our performance has been achieved through an ongoing programme of works, which included the following initiatives:

  • installation of voltage optimisation equipment at 33 of our buildings, saving 4000 tCO2 a year
  • replacement of inefficient lighting saving 30% on lighting costs, and, so far, 780 tCO2 a year
  • installation of combined heat and power (CHP) plants at our London HQ, and our laboratories in Weybridge and Sand Hutton (FERA) - electricity produced by a CHP plant produces a quarter less carbon emissions than energy generated from the grid and 13.5% of the department’s electricity is generated through these CHP plants
  • installation of 10 biomass boilers at rural sites across the Defra portfolio - these burn woodchip instead of gas or oil, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels

All major refurbishment projects and construction projects carried out by the department over the past 5 years have been designed to be as sustainable as possible (all achieving a minimum standard of BREEAM Excellent). All of these projects have showcased Defra as a leader in sustainability and have won awards for their green credentials. They include: Nobel House (2006), Alnwick (2008), Kings Pool, York (2008) and the Weybourne building at Weybridge (2009).

Defra’s achievements were recognised in 2008 when it was one of only 12 pathfinder organisations to be awarded the Carbon Trust Standard. This followed on from the award of the Energy Efficiency Accreditation scheme certification in 2007.

Sustainable development in government

The government is committed to leading by example in the way that it manages its estate and operations.

It has a significant contribution to make to sustainable development, not just through its policies and services, but also through all the support activities that go on every day.

Decisions about energy, water and waste management, and the goods and services that departments buy all say a great deal about the government’s commitment to sustainable development.

You can read more about sustainable government estates and the disposal of surplus public sector land.