Energy savings: it’s all about shopping around

According to the Carbon Trust schools could reduce energy consumption by around £44m per year – an environmentally-friendly cost saving. But how can schools make these energy-efficient savings? New research highlights that the answer could be as simple as shopping around

Schools are blowing millions of pounds a year on hot air because they don’t shop around for cheaper energy supplies, a leading UK expert has warned.

Love Energy Savings says many educational establishments – including new academies – are paying over the odds for heating and lighting by sticking to government frameworks. According to the company, many schools tie themselves into deals brokered by specialist buying organisations in the belief they offer the best prices; in truth, schools may be entering deals that could be beaten on the open market.

One reason suggested is that the process of shopping around can be too difficult and time-consuming, but Adrian Cieslake of Love Energy Savings suggests there could be benefits to going it alone.

Achieving energy autonomy

“In a lot of cases, schools are seeing bills go through the roof, spending money which could be better put directly towards education,” Adrian says. DfE figures show schools spend, on average, around £27,000 a year on fuel bills – with some larger schools paying an estimated £80,000!

“Most schools will take what they think is the easy option and go with an energy broker,” Adrian explains. “They tie themselves into a purchasing ‘framework’, whereby their energy is bought for them by a public sector buying organisation.

“The buyer will set up a deal directly with the energy suppliers on behalf of a number of education bodies in one go, negotiating a price that seems the best around. Schools see it as a simple solution to their energy needs and sign on the dotted line, often without checking if they could find a better deal themselves.”

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This, Adrian estimates, can cost an individual school thousands of pounds a year which, in the current climate, takes vital funding away from where it is most needed – in the classroom. “The government allows schools and academies to buy their energy as they see fit, but most fail in this,” he says, adding that schools need to take advantage of the flexibility this policy allows.

Seeking out the best price

Schools are business – albeit they operate under a different schema, at the heart of which are students. Adrian advises that schools should follow the example of other businesses which have shopped around to cut their energy bills. “If you own your own home, you look for the best price; schools should be doing exactly the same. We all know there are significant squeezes on education funding and savings must be made – gas and electricity bills are a good place to start.

“There are plenty of options out there, it’s just a case of knowing where to look- and we most certainly do.”

Pay it forward – minding the environment

Choosing the right energy deal isn’t just about freeing up funds; while implementing energy efficient measures and on-site generation – for example, solar panels – saves money, it’s also better for the environment.

Schools are about supporting children’s futures, so why not make theirs greener? “According to statistics from the Carbon Trust schools could reduce energy consumption by around £44m a year — which would prevent 625,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission, “Adrian says.

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