New year, new energy plan?

At the start of a new year we all have our resolutions to improve ourselves. But how about resolving to improve our schools’ energy expenditure? Mark Stevenson, the MD of Bright Spark Energy, shares some useful guidance for schools – looking at how you can best mitigate against rising energy costs and why saving energy is less complicated than it seems

It may surprise you to know that the majority of homes, offices and schools in the UK are inefficient; a large number of buildings were constructed in the 70s or earlier and are, therefore, not well-insulated and have an aging built environment. With falling capital improvement budgets comes a greater need than ever for investment in green technologies. The education sector needs to become more sustainable in the long-term, opening up the opportunity to reinvest the savings made from energy projects back into teaching and learning.

Some ways that schools can make 2018 their greenest year yet

Know your provider

There are innumerable options for energy providers and, with limited time and resources, it’s not always easy to determine the one that’s best suited for your school. Rushing into a contract without reading all of the small print can lead to some costly blunders. For example, some providers may ask schools to buy equipment outright with a very short warranty on LED lighting – i.e. under 10 years. This would mean that, if the LED lighting were to break, it could leave school leaders with the unsatisfactory option of buying brand new – and potentially expensive – replacements.

Other suppliers might sign schools into leasing deals that don’t meet DfE guidelines – for example, ‘rent-a-roof’ or ‘shared saving’ schemes that never deliver what was promised.

Change to LED lights

Lighting is the biggest cost to running buildings and most schools still use fluorescent lights which were advertised as energy-saving when they were introduced, but are now considered wasteful.

LED luminaires are known to be up to 80% more efficient, have a longer life (up to 50,000 hours), better light quality and lower maintenance requirements and heat output. Switching to LED lights can lead to energy savings of around 70%, while estimates of savings when switching outdoor lights, like those on sporting grounds or in parking lots, can be around 75%.

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Control your heating

It is true that turning down your heating by one degree will save you money but, in order to make a bigger impact and not risk freezing your pupils, we would advise that you invest in an intelligent heating system that allows you to split the school into zones and heat these only when needed, rather than the typical ‘on all the time’ or ‘twice–a-day, everyday’, schedules which most schools abide by. This kind of upgrade not only leads to long-term savings on energy, but also provides improved the comfort indoors – a welcome feeling in these chilly months.

Get everyone involved

We know that students can often be the most enthusiastic adopters of social campaigns and that’s why we suggest that you turn this into a school-wide movement. Utilise eye-catching signs and regular announcements to draw attention to wasted energy. Put the power in the hands of staff and students to improve efficiency and allow them to do their part to express environmental consciousness; you might be surprised how much energy can be saved when your students proactively turn out the lights!

Go solar

Solar Photovoltaics, or Solar PV for short, is technology that many within the UK have become accustomed to as a renewable energy resource. In its simplest terms, it is a technology that converts daylight into electrical power, which can then be used to light (and in some cases heat) a building, saving costs on grid-purchased energy.

In 2014, the government produced a report discussing the benefits of Solar PV including the ability to reduce electricity bills, reduce CO2 emissions, generate surplus for schools and create opportunities for sustainability education for students.

The New Year is the perfect time to re-evaluate your school’s energy usage and determine whether a change in energy contracts, or new lighting or renewable technologies, could save you money in the long-term.

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