On the evening of Friday 27 April, a team of volunteer staff and students will move through every building on the University’s Highfield Campus, switching off all non-essential electrical equipment in offices. The aim of the event is to highlight how a small change in behaviour (switching items off when you leave work) can lead to significant energy savings. This not only saves the University money, but will help us achieve our ambitious carbon reduction target of 20% by 2020.

We will be able to compare the energy used that weekend with equivalent data from the preceding weeks, and that will tell us how much could be saved if all non-essential equipment was switched off.  Full details of the event are given below:

Southampton Blackout – Friday 27th April

1.    Why are we doing this?

The University has signed up to an ambitious carbon reduction target to cut carbon emissions from energy consumption by 20% by 2020. To achieve this target will require a mixture of technical solutions for our buildings and behaviour change by our staff and students. In 2009, we achieved a 16% reduction in electricity use in B58 by switching off all non-essential electrical equipment (principally PCs).

We have successfully run an annual waste audit for the last 6 years and attracted up to 95 students to go through our rubbish. So, as part of the carbon management plan initiatives, we came up with the idea to get our students to go through all the buildings on Highfield campus switching off non-essential electrical equipment in offices.

2.    What is the aim?

The aim of the event is to raise awareness of staff and students to the importance of how a small change in behaviour, such as switching items off, can make a big difference in terms of energy and carbon savings.

3.    What are we doing?

Small groups of students will be allocated to buildings and switch off all non-essential electrical equipment. They will be supervised by a member of staff.

We piloted the approach in Chemistry in November 2011 and found that 1/3rd of PCs were left switched on (despite plenty of notice of the event).

4.    Where will this happen?

The student groups will only go into the offices in most (but not all) buildings on Highfield campus.

5.    What will the students do?

They will go into offices and switch off non-essential electrical equipment such as Pcs, printers, mobile phone chargers etc. The students will not switch off any equipment where staff have told us to leave it switched on (providing they have a valid reason, such as computational work). They will also be told not to touch anything while in the offices.

6.    What will the staff volunteers do?

They will supervise the small group of students as they work their way through the offices in a building. They will need to have keys/card access to open up offices. Security support will be available for the event.

7.    When will this happen?

Friday 27th April between 7 and 10pm.

8.    How will we communicate with staff?

We will inform staff of this event well in advance using a variety of media and give them plenty of time to opt out if they have good reason.

9.    Who is organising this event?

The team includes representatives from academia, security, H&S, the student body and energy management. Dr Neil Smith (Environment Manager) and Simon Kemp (Lecturer in Civil Engineering & Environment) are leading the team. The team report to the Carbon Management Plan Steering Group who is responsible for delivering the University’s carbon target.

10. What can I do?

Please support this initiative by letting your staff know about the event, supporting members of your staff to help on the night and, if you do not already do so, switching off your own PC.

11.   Where can I find out more information?

Please contact Dr Neil Smith (; 26679) if you have any questions about this matter.

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4 Responses to Blackout

  1. Rikki Prince says:

    How soon will the results demonstrating the 20% reduction in energy use be published?

    • Adam Warren says:

      The aim was to publish preliminary results within a couple of days – so 1 May with any luck. However, we’re not expecting a 20% reduction as a result of the blackout – office IT equipment is only a small (but still significant) part of the University’s power usage… especially when compared with areas like the server rooms and the ECS chip fabrication factory.

  2. Sophie Sissons says:

    Hi. Have the results from the blackout been published yet!? Thanks!

  3. Adam Warren says:

    See the most recent post for the headline figures. The building-by-building data has yet to be released; there are clearly some sensitivities over identifying academic units that may not have switched off as comprehensively as others, and this is supposed to be a developmental process, not beating the guilty with a stick! One extra piece of information I have obtained is that the Highfield campus has around 5,570 PCs and laptops in offices and public areas (excluding those in research labs), so you can see why small changes in behaviour can yield large savings.