Counting carbon: Launching the Cost of Net Zero Calculator

Solar panels and wind turbines in front of a sunset.

Our sector strategy team have delivered an innovative Cost of Net Zero Calculator tool, alongside a report that explains the cost of achieving Net Zero for the entire sector, in collaboration with and funded by professional education bodies and from the Department for Education. The calculator tool aims to provide universities and colleges with a standard method of calculating the cost of a Net Zero carbon state, unlocking opportunities for funding and sustainable action. The report aims to help the sector as a whole understand the scale of investment and action required to reach a Net Zero future.

We are pleased to share that we have delivered a new Cost of Net Zero Calculator tool, in collaboration with tertiary and higher education associations AUDE (the Association of Higher Education Directors of Estates), BUFDG (the British Universities Finance Directors Group) and the EAUC (the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education), with additional funding from the Department for Education.

The calculator will provide universities and colleges with a standard method of calculating the overall cost of a Net Zero carbon state, allowing organisations to incorporate long-term sustainable action alongside financial and strategic planning. By identifying areas for action, the tool will unlock opportunities for and financial investment to accelerate the delivery of Net Zero plans.

Our Co-CEO, Simon Alsbury, said:

“Energise is very pleased to deliver this project which is the first of its kind for the sector, with the principal purpose of supporting Universities and Colleges to improve their planning in this area. With input from various stakeholders and an expert advisory group, this project allows the expected cost of Net Zero to be understood through the report and provides a ‘cost of carbon’ calculator tool to support individual institutions to understand the cost of decarbonisation and develop a strategic level financial plan.

“The tertiary education sector has a significant role to play in the journey to Net Zero, by reducing its own environmental footprint, helping to develop new climate solutions through research, being a driver of collaboration/innovation across the economy, and acting as an advocate for climate action. Therefore, we hope this project will not only help an incredibly vital sector move closer to Net Zero, but also help to accelerate our national progress towards a Net Zero future by 2050.”

The release of the calculator was paired with the publication of a report called ‘The Cost of Net Zero’, which follows the ‘Accelerating towards Net Zero’ January report from the same partnership group, led by the Royal Anniversary Trust. The reports aim to help understand the context, the scale and the nature of the task. A few key findings include estimations of the cost of achieving Net Zero for the entire sector, which is £43.8bn overall and the average cost per institution of £124.9m. Of the total cost, £29.1bn is within the supply chain, £8.8bn within the built environment and £6.1bn within the category of travel/transport. Supply chain engagement is a key area of sustainability strategy, since scope 3 emissions are often the biggest portion of an organisations carbon footprint. In the higher education industry, scope 3 emissions account for 36% of the sector’s carbon footprint and include transport of goods, capital goods, waste and procurement, supply chain and water.

Significant investments will need to be made to reach Net Zero targets, and both the calculator tool and report aim to support this. The tool provides a flow of actions including understanding what commitments are needed, modelling scenarios, opportunities for carbon reduction and access to a database of measures to achieve sustainable action. At Energise, we are proud to have developed this innovative, standardised process and hope to inspire and accelerate action for the sector and progress at a national level.

You can learn more about The Cost of Net Zero calculator tool and download the full report by clicking here.

For any questions regarding the development of the Cost of Net Zero Calculator tool, or for support on your own sustainability journey, get in touch with our Net Zero consultants at

Written By    Emma Lane

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