Spotlight: University of Liverpool Energy Company (ULEC)

The Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP)

Formed over 30 years ago, the University of Liverpool Energy Company (ULEC) has established the first major Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant in an educational establishment in Europe and has continued to invest in energy and infrastructure over the last eight years.

The innovative approach to providing energy for a university campus was recognised in 1986 when the energy centre was opened by the then Secretary of State for Education, Kenneth Baker. Since then ULEC has gone from strength to strength and is now at the forefront of the University’s Carbon Management Plan, promoting and investing in environmentally friendly technology.

ULEC is also the oldest of the University’s wholly owned subsidiaries having been in existence since 1985. ULEC serves the University by funding the expenditure required to deliver heat and power to the whole of the University estate including Main Campus facilities, Halls of Residences and the Leahurst and London Campuses and Ness Gardens.

Award winning

The CHP plant was the focal point of energy for the University until it ceased production in 2008. Since then, ULEC has invested £19 million in the state of the art energy centre on Ashton Street which came online in 2009.

Housing a large 3.5 MW CHP plant and boilers, the new energy centre building has since won a prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) award for its innovative design.

Following a further ULEC investment of £7.5 Million in an ambitious major refurbishment programme, the former Victorian boilerhouse on Ashton Street now houses 2 CHP plants generating 4MW of electricity. ULEC now generates around 80% of it’s electricity on campus and utilises the waste heat to provide heating and hot water to campus buildings. This project has breathed new life into an historic Grade 2 listed boilerhouse making it for use in the 21st century.

Energy centre interior

A gas engine generator inside the CHP.


Overall ULEC has undertaken a significant investment of £30 million in the heating and power and infrastructure projects at the University over the last eight years.  In addition to the two new energy centres and three CHP engines, ULEC has also funded the installation of Solar PV and the continual renewal and improvement of the District Heating and High Voltage networks.

ULEC is able to reinvest the savings from it’s on site electricity generation back into a variety of infrastructure projects which ensure the resilience and reliability of the energy supplies to the university over the next 25 years.

energy centre2

In addition to investing in energy saving technology and plant ULEC shares and collaborates with academic colleagues on a variety of leading edge research projects related to energy and the environment. Student visits around the energy centres and plant rooms help give a real life perspective on the latest technology being used and form the basis of many energy related projects. Staff  have also shown a great interest in the energy centres and have participated in many guided tours around the facilities on their lunch hours.

Innovative solutions

Peter Birch Engineering Services Manager said: “ULEC has a long track record of supporting and investing in energy saving schemes and technology and providing innovative solutions to the increasingly complex world of energy procurement and management.

“The ULEC model has been copied by other HE institutions and it’s energy centres are an exemplar of sustainable development and investment in the HE sector helping drive down carbon emissions and leading the way to an environmentally friendly campus for students staff and visitors alike”.

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