Save energy; save money

  • Save energy; save money

Could changing a few light bulbs really make that much of an impact on your school’s budget? You might be surprised, says Claire Gibbison

Improving energy efficiency in their buildings gives UK school business managers a huge opportunity to gain large financial savings and also to sustain these savings in the long term. Effective energy management has always been on the agenda for most establishments, but in recent years an increased body of knowledge and greater access to resources has led to it becoming one of the main drivers in saving money.

On average, UK schools could potentially reduce their energy spend by an estimated £44 million per year by implementing an energy efficiency agenda into their plan, much of which will require minor capital. In addition to the financial savings, improving the energy efficiency of a school building brings with it a host of further benefits including more energy awareness, improved corporate social responsibility and a less weighty environmental footstep.

Schools can sometimes have high energy demands due to the requirements of a large number of classrooms and communal areas to light and heat to regulated temperatures for long hours. In fact, schools account for 25% of total public sector energy costs – consuming around 11,378 million kWh of energy each year.

Steps to save

Although energy is needed, there are ways that schools can reduce their use without impacting on services, thus bringing major savings in the long to medium term. Some establishments will have more scope for savings than others, however there are changes, both small and large, that all schools across the UK can work towards. Upgrading to more efficient light fittings, for example, can result in up to a 70% saving on lighting energy consumption. Improving insulation can also help in making sure that heat generated within a classroom isn’t lost to the outside world and that rooms are kept to the required temperatures.

In completing a simple assessment, the amount of energy a school is currently using can be evaluated and areas where this could be reduced are highlighted. Simple measures such as switching off lights and electrical equipment, or introducing timing controls on heating equipment are a great start, and can be a cheap/no cost way of initially driving down the bills. Some larger scale upgrades that many schools opt for are replacing light fittings and upgrading boilers, as well as improving loft or pipework insulation.

A simple switch from inefficient and outdated lighting to LED, for example, can create substantial savings for UK schools. Further measures – including upgrading centralised dimming controls and discrete controlling systems – can also mean huge savings for fuel bills. Not only does this guarantee a financial advantage, but it also means classroom lighting can be altered dependent on the availability of natural light or room occupancy.

Found and funded

Many schools are already embracing energy efficient actions by implementing projects that will save money, allowing for a sustainable approach in the long term. One such example is Waverley School, a Local Authority, community special school which has 117 pupils aged 3-19. The school was purpose built in 1990 and had a number of inefficient and outdated energy measures in place that had not been updated for a number of years. It was spending over £100,000 on its energy bill annually, and was looking to replace its outdated and inefficient boilers.

The school used the RE:FIT model to identify potential energy efficiency projects and approached Salix Finance, a not-for-profit government-funded organisation, dedicated to providing the public sector with loans for energy efficiency projects.

The school acquired an interest-free loan of £242,352 to install multiple measures including LED lighting, lighting controls, thermostatic radiator valves, heating controls and more efficient motor controls. Waverley school has since applied for further funding through Salix for £30,100 to install 4 x 120kW boilers which would see the boilers increase in efficiency from 70% to 92%. The loan will be paid back over a period of six years, and the idea is that the repayments will be covered by savings to the school’s energy bill.

Think of a number

Before the project was completed, it was estimated that it would save the school approximately £30,000 per year – however, after close monitoring it appears that the refurbishment is already saving the school an impressive £47,000 per year, not including the more recent boiler upgrades which will save the school a further £3,700 anually.

As exemplified by this experience, implementing both small and large energy efficiency upgrades can result in significant savings, meaning that capital can be freed up to spend in other areas. And Waverley School is just one of many across the UK utilising accessible funding to improve their energy efficiency. Salix has been working with educational establishments for more than 12 years, during which time it has helped public bodies to invest £37.8 million on more than 2,500 projects designed to save £8.6 million annually.

About the author

Claire Gibbison is the programme co-ordinator for the schools team at Salix Finance (www.salixfinance. co.uk/schools).

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