Tackling energy efficiency in education – holistically

Throughout the education sector there’s an increasing awareness of the benefits of implementing a well-rounded energy efficiency plan. Here, Jack Saunders, client support officer at Salix’s finance schools and academies programme, explores the opportunities for school managers to maximise the success of energy efficiency initiatives

Energy management can be a primary area of concern for senior management within schools as they look to make cost savings. Reducing energy consumption is one way that schools can minimise their spend, whilst also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the learning environment.
Choosing to address energy efficiency holistically is the most effective way of maximising energy, carbon and cost savings. Holistic projects, typically, involve the installation of multiple energy-efficient technologies as well as the adoption of behavioural changes.

The definition of a holistic project

For example, many schools begin addressing their energy usage by installing LED lighting; however, a school taking a holistic approach may also consider whether they could install lighting sensors, energy management systems, new insulation, boilers and solar PV within the same project. An added benefit to this approach – on top of the associated high energy savings – is that installing a number of projects at once helps save money on design, installation and labour costs, while also minimising disruption on site.

First things first

For school business managers looking to improve their school’s energy efficiency, the first step is to identify where changes, both in culture and processes, need to be made.
Replacing outdated technologies with more efficient upgrades is a good place to start and is likely to be the first port of call if a school’s energy bills and maintenance costs are notably high. Finding out what the school’s energy spend per pupil is – by dividing the annual energy bill by the number of pupils – will give a good indication of what you could be aiming for.
It is recommended that primary schools should be aiming for £39 per pupil and secondary schools for £60.

Waste not want not

It is also important to identify where energy is wasted. Walking around the school and liaising with the site manager, who will be aware of any day-to-day issues, can help establish areas for improvement such as windows remaining open when radiators are in use, or lights being left on when they are not needed – a problem which can be easily addressed with lighting sensors.
Energy waste can also be reduced by updating energy control systems. New smart technologies allow for more precise control, especially if combined with an energy management system. This gives schools the ability to quickly, easily and, often, automatically adjust their energy systems to meet their needs in real time.

Check your attitude

As well as installing new technologies, a holistic project could also encourage staff and students to take an active role in reducing their consumption by making behavioural changes. Establishing environmental awareness clubs, providing training to identify energy saving opportunities and running ‘switch off’ campaigns to ensure equipment is off when not in use, are all effective methods of instigating these changes.
Strategies like these encourage individuals to take ownership and pride in energy management, motivating them to identify measures and sustain initiatives to improve efficiency themselves. Inviting the ideas of students can be particularly effective as they know what will motivate other students to make changes.

Money, money, money

Financial barriers can prevent educators from implementing wide scale projects but, working with funding providers like Salix, who offer 100% interest free loans for energy efficiency schemes, can alleviate many of these financial obstacles.
By applying a holistic approach to energy management schools will not only see clear results and cost-savings, but will also inspire a campus-wide culture of energy saving, vital to the success of energy management projects.

About Salix
Salix Finance is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy, the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Department for Education. Salix provides 100% interest-free loans to public sector organisations to enable them to invest in energy efficient technologies, helping to reduce carbon emissions and energy bills. 
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