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Stephen Davies is director of TGE Group

Setting a good example in energy use

Stephen Davies offers some advice for schools looking to improve their energy-saving and carbon-reduction strategies

Posted by Dave Higgitt | May 16, 2015 | Sustainability

With pressure mounting on schools and further education colleges to cut energy costs and stay in line with an ever increasingly green political agenda, one of the biggest challenges is that many institutions were built long before energy efficiency became an issue, whilst others, built in the last decade, promised ultra-high efficiency but have failed to deliver in practice. The statistics speak for themselves. Thirty percent of energy consumed in the UK is wasted, and some very simple resource-saving measures could cut a school's energy costs by up to 20 percent. Together, they represent a significant amount of money that could undoubtedly be put to better use.

There are quick wins and those that may take a little longer or a shift in culture if they are to succeed. One of the biggest wins can be a review of lighting. Lighting accounts for between 20-25 percent of the total energy use in schools and by simply fitting energy-saving light bulbs, schools could reduce lighting costs by up to 75 percent. There is the additional benefit that more modern lighting has been proven to create a better light for learning.

Heating is another big energy user which accounts for at least half of a school's annual fuel use. No one wants cold classrooms, but reducing the temperature by just 1degree centigrade can save 8 percent on heating costs.

School managers also need to take a look at some of the most obvious ways to make savings, such as their policies on energy use out of hours. PC monitors, for example, account for almost two thirds of a computer's energy consumption; if left on for 24 hours a day a computer will cost £25 a year to run. Multiply that by the number of PCs in your school, it soon adds up.

In addition to simple energy-saving measures, schools are increasingly looking at energy generation as a means of achieving additional savings or a carbon neutral status.

Shropshire's Barrow 1618 Primary School has become the county's first carbon-neutral school. TGE Group was asked to provide a detailed assessment of the school's energy use and implement an energy-reduction plan. The school now has a cheaper two-year electricity supply contract and has installed energy-efficient lighting and radiators. TGE Group also installed both solar PV and biomass systems to help the school generate its own renewable power, and has installed an energy-monitoring system to ensure maximum savings are achieved.

The results have been impressive. It is estimated that the school is saving 12 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and their combined electricity and heating bill has been reduced by 31 percent. Income generated from the feed-in tariff for the solar PV and renewable heat incentive for the biomass is forecast to generate a net annual income of nearly £95,000 over the next 20 years.

Raising awareness of any green initiatives amongst the school’s pupils and teachers also ensures the projects’ longevity and successful fulfilment. Pupils can be used as a force for good in 'pestering' the staff to change their habits. For example, pupil-led switch-off campaigns or giving students the task to create simple good housekeeping measures for the electrical equipment in their classrooms can help educate students about energy use and act as real-life case studies. Handing initiatives such as these over to students can also be an effective way of giving pupils a sense of empowerment by taking an active role in the operation of the school.

When assessing a school’s energy requirement it’s important to determine what the energy is to be used for and what resources are available to the school, rather than what’s the best tariff on offer, because selecting the right renewable pays greater dividends in the future.

The first step for schools looking to improve efficiencies and make savings should be to get advice from energy experts, like TGE Group, who can audit the schools energy use and make appropriate recommendations based on best practice and a school’s individual circumstances, rather than selecting a partner who is tied to one renewable technology.

Armed with the right renewable technologies, support and buy-in for pupils and staff, schools can quickly make real savings, but most importantly set a good example for future generations and the wider community.

Stephen Davies is director of TGE Group

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