Friday 2 December 2022 - The Vrije Universiteit Brussel, like other universities, is being hit hard by the energy crisis. It is estimated that VUB’s total energy cost in 2023 will be up to four times higher than it was in 2021. A bold approach to energy consumption is necessary for the university to control its costs and safeguard its core operations.
Through its Energy Save Team, VUB aims to sensitise, empower and engage the entire community on all its campuses to take action at every level within the organisation.
In the short term, a number of measures are being taken in close consultation with staff representatives. Since the beginning of December, the university is heating its buildings to 19° throughout the working week. VUB is also taking measures to stop energy being wasted by heating empty rooms or leaving lights on unnecessarily, which will lead to a reduction in the gas bill by 14%. The various faculties, departments and internal services are working on action plans to further reduce energy consumption, not only in the short term but also structurally.
The funds available in the 2023 budget will be used as a priority for energy-efficient investments in campus buildings dating from the 1970s and 1980s that have not yet been renovated and made more sustainable.
The university has already acted to make its campuses more energy efficient and reduce CO2 emissions. For instance, as part of the fight against global warming, the infrastructure of the swimming pool, the Braem Rectorate building, the two top floors of Building G, and Buildings X and Y have been made more sustainable. New buildings such as the Kindercampus Theodoor, infrastructure under construction such as the LIC, and the planned conversion of USquare will be energy-neutral. Furthermore, maximum use will be made of 100% green energy; the electricity bought will be 100% green. The university will also install solar panels on its roofs for local green power generation.
The ambition to accelerate sustainability is also anchored in the Climate Action Plan recently approved by VUB. This is the university’s commitment to achieving interim targets by 2030 that are in line with what is needed to limit global warming to 1.5°. Its ambition is to be climate-neutral no later than 2050. The current energy crisis will further accelerate this sustainability process.
Joint measures to address the impact of the energy crisis are also being discussed at inter-university level, within the framework of the Flemish University Council.
A warm and connected university
VUB recognises that its approach may mitigate the impact of the energy crisis, but it will not eliminate it, and under no circumstances does it want to pass on the costs to staff and students. What’s more, VUB is taking action to help staff and students who are not able to cope with rising energy costs. The monthly home working allowance for employees remains in place, while the rent subsidy for student dorms has been increased, as has the social allowance that allows VUB to provide additional support to students. The Caroline Pauwels Relief Fund for Students supports students who are struggling financially due to the energy crisis, proving money for laptops, living expenses and rent, among other things. VUB is ensuring that no one has to face the crisis on their own.