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How to save energy in schools: a guide for school governors

Governors have the tricky job of balancing resources, and considering investment or expenditure decisions that deliver real returns. Energy efficiency upgrades are one such conundrum: at face value they can look interesting, and may well be strongly championed by managers and teaching staff.

But how do you decide the best route forwards? How do you know if this is the right decision, and whether to trust that the figures proposed will actually deliver?

This guide aims to arm school governors with the right knowledge and questions to ask when approving investments for energy efficiency upgrades.

What energy saving technologies I should consider?

 If a fast return on investment is the priority, then ‘quick win’ technologies are key – these involve minimal disruption to the school, and pay for themselves quickly with the energy saved over time.

‘Retrofit’ lighting upgrades consistently top surveys as the most popular energy efficiency investment. This is not surprising when you consider that replacing aging fluorescent tubes with LEDs can deliver energy savings as high as 65%.

Bedfordshire East Multi Academy Trust (BEMAT) is one such organisation that has made the switch. Head of Capital and Projects Ian Kite explains, “It has been estimated that we can cut energy costs by over 69 tons of CO2 across the three schools, so the case was highly compelling,” says Kite.

In other evidence, retrofit boiler optimisation technology (a simple installation which improves the efficiency of existing boilers without affecting the temperature of the building) has been proven to save schools 15% a year on energy bills, with overall payback estimated at 2.5 years. The faster the percentage wins and the speed of return the better.

Is there such a thing as a risk-free finance scheme?

Energys Group has found that leasing arrangements are particularly suitable for schools, and has been able to provide financing to numerous schools in a partnership with schools’ lending specialist Utility Rentals.

For peace of mind, the scheme complies with the Academies Financial Handbook. BEMAT’s lighting upgrade project was funded in this way, following a thorough due diligence exercise undertaken by the Trust.

“There is no requirement for any upfront capital investment; the cost of the lease is paid for through the monthly savings made,” says Kite. “All of the lighting is fully maintained for the duration of the lease. It makes sound commercial sense and it derisks the whole process.”

Can I trust the predicted energy savings/payback period I’m shown?

“It is wise for governors to opt for proven technologies that have already been seen to cut energy use in similar applications and schools,” says Kevin Cox, Managing Director of Energys Group.

“Dealing with well-established suppliers that provide lengthy warranties can ensure peace of mind. High-profile ‘eco-bling’, such as solar PV panels, may be an exciting prospect, but many schools already waste more energy than they would hope to generate through solar power.

“Targeting areas of energy waste, such as outdated lighting, inefficient boilers and uninsulated plant room equipment typically delivers far more substantial carbon savings.”

Choosing the right supplier

 It pays to ensure that your supplier offers a robust warranty. Not only does it show that the supplier is confident their product won’t fail, it also takes the risk out of the decision.

Energys, for example, offers a 5 year warranty on our lighting products. However there are many companies that don’t offer this length of time, so it’s worth shopping around for those who do.

It is also worth checking the financial stability and trading history of your prospective supplier; a long warranty is not especially helpful if the supplier is unlikely to be around to honour it. For further reassurance, you could also specify suppliers that include an ongoing maintenance service as part of their package.

Considering the business case for school energy efficiency improvements? Read our education case studies or contact us for advice.

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