T4Sustainability is a small, director-owned firm based in Derbyshire, which developed from a voluntary sector organisation, to become established as a ‘not-only-for-profit’ enterprise in 2002. The firm specialises in design and installation of renewable energy systems, environmental management, electrical data logging and analysis, and the development of control systems on a largely open-source basis. Their clients include local government, businesses, universities, communities and private individuals.

T4 Sustainability webpage. Available at http://www.t4sustainability.co.uk/

T4 provides a wide range of renewable energy systems options to maximise pro-environmental outcomes. These include biomass heating, PV systems, solar water heating and heat pumps. Their energy consultancy includes opportunity assessments, feasibility studies, systems design and training.  They maintain their independence from manufacturers, which allows them to offer impartial guidance on the technology that best fits the project characteristics and meet client needs. T4 offers free advice where possible, a fairly priced service, and are proud of their high standard of workmanship, minimising the amount of maintenance and maximising the durability of newly installed systems, as well as the cost and energy efficiencies created.

For example, they led on the technical aspects of resource efficiency clubs run in partnership with Groundwork Derby and Derbyshire and Gerrard Associates – advising on energy diagnostics, data logging and analysis, which resulted in potential annual savings of £233,000 and 687 tonnes of CO2.

At their own site, T4 have installed renewable energy systems that include PV, solar thermal, and biomass heating.  Although they use two electric vehicles in the delivery of their services, they still gladly export a surplus of electrical energy, which displaces carbon-intensive generation elsewhere.

In addition, the company monitors and evaluates their use of energy via open source software designed in-house, which allows them to provide accurate advice to clients, and pass their knowledge on to the wider community via industry journals and media outlets. This software is also used to evaluate emerging battery storage technology, but as yet T4 haven’t seen a battery system that they believe would be likely to be a long-term benefit to domestic end users.

With regards to their use of materials, T4 aims to minimise consumption, prevent pollution, and get as close to zero waste as possible by frugal water and material use, repurposing and recycling. T4 considers the environmental impact of their supply chain with environmentally minded sourcing being integral to their procurement strategy. T4s works closely with the community on a voluntary basis to further increase their positive environmental impact, by assisting community members in meeting their own environmental targets.

On the pro-environmental skills agenda:

Managing Director John Beardmore argues that in their sphere of business, the supply of graduate-level skills outweighs demand because “there are more suitably qualified graduates floating around than there are good jobs for them to do!” These people fill technical roles in the smaller LCEGS SMEs because they cannot secure graduate-level roles and will accept lower salaries. They may also prefer the ethical stances adopted by smaller SMEs.

John believes that in the East Midlands and West Wales, the Universities have led the way on skills development for the low carbon sector and that there is strong interest in University support/input. However, Universities sometimes struggle to provide access to the right academic expertise. For example, few students of the built environment, even at PhD level receive any training in software development, yet they are supposed to be researching, implementing and testing leading-edge building control algorithms.

John argued that Universities seem less interested in providing flexible skills training in technical areas, or necessary interdisciplinary structure and support. – Some of the necessary training might be provided by online provision, but this seems not to be forthcoming or signposted, perhaps because universities find it more difficult to recoup costs through this style of provision – or more controversially, “perhaps because the Universities lack an integrated approach to interdisciplinary course and project development, and some departmental leaders themselves lack detailed technical experience”. The administrative and financial overheads of setting up multidisciplinary projects also appear to be significant.