One thing the media doesn’t give much attention to is the amount of energy our public buildings use, with the most obvious being the Houses of Parliament.

While new legislation encourages us all to improve our business energy efficiency – partly thanks to the European Commission’s Energy Efficiency Directive – it would be nice to know that our political leaders are doing their bit too.  Luckily, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

With the support of the charity Global Action Plan, and of the community platform Carbon Culture, Parliament is setting new goals to reduce its carbon footprint by 2020.

How much do they really use?

As of January 2015, the Palace of Westminster – also known as the Houses of Parliament – uses around 280,000kWh of electricity per week.  That’s the equivalent usage per week of more than 4,000 UK homes*.  And it’s not just the amount that could be reduced.

According to Carbon Culture, the Palace of Westminster spends nearly £50,000 a week on electricity and gas – that’s almost £300 an hour.  Of course, with more than 1,500 occupants, we should expect their numbers to be a little higher than the average commercial electricity bill.  But can we also expect them to be champions of the modern, energy-saving UK culture?

So what’s the plan?

Parliament and the House of Lords have committed to the following improvements by the year 2020/21, based on what they used in 2008/09:

• A 34% reduction in carbon emissions
• A 50% reduction in how much water they use
• A 30% reduction in the weight of the waste they produce
• And to recycle 75% of their created waste (by weight)

And how are they doing it?

Essentially, just as any small business would – except on a larger scale.  Replacing boilers and lighting with modern, more efficient technology; insulating their archaic stone buildings; and ditching the landfills in favour of dedicated recycling schemes.

So far, it seems to be working: between 2008 and 2014, Parliament reported a 33% reduction in water consumption, a 26% reduction in the weight of waste generated, and a 17% reduction in carbon emissions.

How can I get involved?

Through its community platform partner, Carbon Culture, the government has opened up its energy-saving efforts to the public.  You can track live consumption data from Parliament’s on-site energy meters, and even make your own suggestions for ways to improve its carbon emissions and energy usage.

Of if you’d like to get involved by making sure you’re doing your own bit towards a greener UK, you can get some energy-saving ideas here.

*Based on average annual electricity consumption of 3,200kWh.

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