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Short circuiting energy costs

Mark Stevenson, Bright Spark Energy MD,  has tips for schools looking to be greener and save money

Posted by Hannah Vickers | July 18, 2017 | People, policy, politics, money

Whichever way you look at it, one thing’s for sure: schools are feeling the financial pinch.  

Expenditure on energy consumption is one of the top five highest costs with some of the larger schools spending over £100,000 per annum. And energy costs are rising by up to 10% every year. Schools should therefore be asking themselves how they can reduce spending, become more sustainable (while setting a great example to the students and local community) and in turn, address the balance of falling budgets.

Our approach is based on taking a holistic approach to energy saving. We focus on all aspects of energy use across a school’s estate, and then work out how to save using the concept of marginal gains.  

The first thing schools should do is an energy consumption health-check; for many, especially primary schools, we offer this free of charge. The areas we look at are summarised below.

Your energy suppliers

Many schools we visit haven’t reviewed their supplier for many years. The main reason for this is time; schools simply don’t have the time to carry out this complex audit and research other options.

Thankfully, having worked within the energy supply industry for many years, we know where significant savings can be made. Taking one small primary academy as an example, simply switching gas and electricity supplier saved them just over £2,500 per annum.  

Energy efficiency

The next question to ask is about your building’s efficiency. Are all the lights and computers turned off at night? A wireless router uses over £20 of energy per annum and a large secondary school with 500 computers and servers, will pay over £5,000 per annum just for its computers to be on at night. Should you be keeping your heating on at night to save on the peak morning rate? There are so many layers of cost in schools; it’s important to understand these and to put the right processes and considerations in place to achieve significant costs savings.

While schools should be wary of unscrupulous companies selling poor quality LED lighting good quality luminaires will last a lot longer than normal bulbs. A lot of schools also do not have compliant emergency lighting. In the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, it is important that we focus on creating a much safer environment in our schools.  

Renewables

The next area to consider is the quick win for schools: solar energy. It is important to note that this isn’t just about saving energy expenditure but also a way for schools to make money, and there doesn’t need to be an initial cost.

There are numerous government grants available for sustainable energy. We help our schools secure these to cover the initial cost of having the solar panels installed, and the work is carried out with no disruption to learning.

Taking one primary school on the south coast of England, in year one it saved £1,949.67 on energy costs but only 90% of the solar power was used; leaving 10% to sell back to its energy supplier. What is important to remember is that the saving is cumulative so by year five the school will have conservatively saved £11,632.28 per annum.

Heating

Replacing old gas boilers with an Air Source Heat Pump or Biomass Boiler with the help of a government subsidy is another option.  

By following these simple steps to review your energy consumption, you can reap notable rewards.

Our objective is to work with our schools to save them money that can be spent on more teachers or resources and develop their students to become sustainable champions.

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