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St Faith's uses energy monitoring software

Energy management: the key to financial savings in education

Becoming energy efficient needs a defined strategy, says Optimal Monitoring

Posted by Stephanie Broad | August 30, 2015 | Sustainability

UK education establishments looking at ways to save money are increasingly considering their energy usage as a potential money saver. 

Implementing effective energy management programmes and utilising intelligent monitoring equipment means identifying key areas for improvement. Not only does this ensure short and long term savings - it also leads to staff and pupils prioritising carbon footprint reduction. 

Whether you are the bursar at a state secondary or finance manager of a private primary, saving money on energy bills is paramount to successfully running your establishment. After all, why fundraise for a new minibus if you are throwing money away on heating, leaking pipes and equipment left running? Successful energy management requires a defined strategy. If, as a school bursar, you are overloaded with work and don’t know how or where to start, a simple, user-friendly energy monitoring system is the perfect place to begin.

Whether we wish to admit it or not, we all waste utilities, the only variance is to what extent we are doing this. The problem is that even when people acknowledge the existence of utility waste most choose to ignore utility in-efficiency because it seems hard to tackle, or they believe the effort out ways the return. 

So, where to start? With any cost reduction exercise you need to understand where the money is going and then you can start to see if this is justified. Utilities are no different. 

A good energy management system will get all your utility data in one place, and provide simple reporting to guide your reduction journey. These systems are tools that consolidate your utility information and then help you identify irregular consumption patterns throughout the day. Most systems will allow you to add both billing and sub meters, rate the consumption for bill comparison and accrual, and generate management reporting identifying uncharacteristic consumption patterns. The best of this system will grow with you, ultimately allowing you to educate all the building users, and helping you to make informed strategic decisions on a utility reduction strategy, some systems can even be used in the classroom. 

St Faith’s and The Leys, both independent schools in Cambridge, use a web based system, using wireless equipment to easily retrofit - so installation is quick and non-invasive. 

If done right, energy monitoring generally costs much less than you would think to implement. The right specialist system should give a return on investment in year one, typically finding easily correctable over consumption amounting to more than 10% of the utility bills. 

St Faith’s has employed the Optimal Energy Monitoring, Analytics and Reporting Software as an information tool, providing real time data and historic comparisons in electricity, gas and water usage. In the last academic year alone, electricity usage has reduced by 13% and gas by 23%. Finding the right monitoring company to work with will mean guidance is on hand and support available to define a working strategy. 

As with all things new, take ‘baby steps’ - that way costs are kept under control and payback proven. Importantly, engage staff and students, as energy goals are more easily delivered if responsibility is shared. 

St Faith’s School has involved both staff and pupils to generate energy awareness and effectively reduce costs and consumption. Richard Brent, Bursar at St Faith’s, explains: “Following installation of Optimal Monitoring we quickly realised that the software we use is particularly good at presenting information in a simple, graphic and pictorial way”. 

Pupils easily access information in class, compare week-on-week activity and view daily real time graphs and data. This increased energy knowledge is backed up by nine dashboards located around the site - allowing staff and pupils to view regularly updated information on school energy usage. 

Monitoring different buildings and understanding the difference in gas and electricity use has made it possible to work out and achieve real financial gains. One great success has been the school kitchen – which has the highest electricity use. Daily and weekly data comparisons have led to simple alterations, such as food counter and air conditioning timings, allowing staff to effectively reduce electricity usage. In fact, the school’s electricity spend is down year-on-year by six percent.

With intelligent planning, training and guidance, an energy monitoring strategy can operate effectively in primary and secondary schools and further education establishments. Ensuring that energy is only used when needed not only means you are running an efficient site procedure but finding all-important financial savings in the process.

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