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.

How to save energy in schools: Energys Group’s quick wins

Everyone’s talking about ‘quick win’ energy efficiency upgrades for schools. But what are they, and how do you go about paying for them?

By Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys Group

The Carbon Trust estimates UK schools could reduce energy costs by around £44 million per year, preventing 625,000 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

And, it urges that such vital energy efficiency development in schools does not mean compromising comfort. In many cases, implementing simple energy saving measures actually improves conditions, as well as saving money. Once installed, sustainable technologies can also feature in schools’ sustainability learning, branding and annual reporting on environment and buildings.

As such, the drivers for boarding the efficiency train are persuasive. Less racy though are the circuitous funding routes, the myriad, complex energy schemes and intense time pressures on those who manage school estates.

The dilemma therefore is simple; energy efficiency makes excellent sense, but how can one navigate what is for a layman a potentially painful path to low energy education?

What are quick win technologies?

These refer to energy efficiency kit that schools should consider. The kit won’t cost a fortune upfront, and pays for itself fast, a key bonus. An LED lighting upgrade for example saves up to 70% on energy use, so payback can be typically less than 3 years.

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.

What is the cost of doing nothing?

As we’ve explained though, for many schools funding complexity is a genuine barrier to making energy efficiency improvements.

The cost of doing nothing describes a disconnect; older, energy inefficient lights or boilers cost schools more money on a daily basis to run. But as finding the cash for improvement can be tough, little is done.

Ironically, and sadly, the money built up and wasted by not modernising can eventually exceed the cost to upgrade technologies. So schools needlessly miss out on more futuristic estates, stuck with old technology in the misguided belief they can’t afford better.

It all means it pays for schools to take time out, even within their hectic day to day schedules, to interrogate the funding schemes out there. Then, they can determine which offer the best criteria for energy efficient success.

The funding lowdown

Salix provides 100% interest-free capital to help educational establishments fund energy saving upgrades. The loan is calculated to be repaid with the energy savings made.

Maintained schools, special schools and further education colleges have each had their own scheme for a number of years.

Academies and sixth form colleges have previously had the more difficult route of applying for the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF); funding has been notoriously harder to secure as buildings in bad condition were prioritised. However, a brand new fund – SEEF – focuses specifically on energy efficiency projects and should be much easier for academies and SFCs to apply for.

Eligible technologies for all schemes are wide ranging: they include LED lighting, insulation, heating improvements and boiler upgrades.

Another funding option?

Whilst Salix is a worthwhile funding route and Energys has successfully helped many clients along this useful path, there are some other options.

For everyone seeking Salix cash, funding is not guaranteed, and schools have to wait until the next academic year for the funding. Some commentators argue the application process is complex and a little challenging without supplier support.

So, a new route schools should consider is a rental scheme from Utility Rentals. It’s worth taking a moment to explain how this works.

Utility Rentals is offering an operational lease on energy efficiency upgrades, such as LED lighting. A player in the education world for more than three decades, Utility Rentals has now partnered with Energys Group to provide the package.

There is no application process; any school is eligible, and the repayments are covered using the energy costs saved; so schools are cash positive from day one. To be plain, that means there is no requirement for any upfront capital investment. Repayments can even be deferred until 12 months after the work has been completed, and all of the energy saving technology is fully maintained for the duration of the lease – so there are no additional costs.

In reality, the leasing scheme seeks to de-risk energy efficiency investment and make simple, sound commercial sense within an easier to figure package. The scheme is compliant with the Academies Financial Handbook, which provides extra peace of mind.

Setting off on your energy efficiency journey

It is advisable that every school out there makes the effort to engage with a supplier. These will guide you through the right option for you and help you with the application process.

In the complex world of energy efficiency funding, going it alone can eat up time, and can be risky too.

Of course, schools can go it alone. But on balance, experience suggests advice and advocacy along the way are much appreciated. And the end results are usually better for school and environment too.

This article was originally published in QA Education magazine

Looking for advice about how to save energy in schools? Contact us for advice or to ask for a free, no obligation site survey.

Energy saving ideas for schools; what’s the best path to upgrading Victorian and Edwardian school buildings?

The Independent writes that an estimated 3,000 UK schools are thought to have Victorian buildings. While they may be fine pieces of architecture, such edifices are sadly, unsuited to modern learning.

The problem is worrying; the Guardian says 43% of school buildings in the South West aren’t fit for purpose.

Aging high ceilings, rising damp, poor insulation and cold, unpleasant lighting and aesthetics are common. They are damaging the next generation of skilled youngsters.

David Simmonds, Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people’s board, told the Guardian; “What we mustn’t do is to get into a situation where schools have to close because things are so bad.”

Rather than knocking down historic educational infrastructure, a wiser approach seeks to retrofit for sustainability, breathing life back into these beautiful but presently inadequate learning environments.

LED lighting for schools can help save energy with quick ROI

Although just part of the solution, LED lighting upgrades from Energys have been proven to benefit both aesthetics and the learning experience in older schools; revitalising their appeal for this century.

Located in Tower Hamlets, Harry Gosling Primary School is a case in point, having recently instigated an LED upgrade at its Edwardian-age site. The new lighting is set to deliver £7,000 annual savings, with return on investment (ROI) in just 4 years.

In terms of the end result, there is no doubt a dramatic improvement in lighting quality has been achieved. “Light is now a lovely daylight colour and is uniformly diffused, while there are no issues with glare; Energys products having been designed with a very specific focus on reducing glare,” says School Premises Manager James Doherty.

Salix funding for Victorian legacy buildings

For managers tasked with working out how to save energy in schools, finance is often a key barrier. Salix funding can provide the solution: it delivers 100% interest-free capital to the public sector to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

It is therefore a simple way that schools can make tangible improvements at no upfront cost; pay back the loan with the energy you save. Across the country, Estate Managers have called the scheme a no brainer, and many are thrilled with the results.

Doherty is a staunch supporter of the scheme and its usefulness in Tower Hamlets: “Because of Salix funding, the school is essentially not incurring any additional costs for the project since repayments can be made from the energy savings.

“It pains me there are so many other schools around the country putting up with bad lighting that is wasting energy and also impacting negatively on the learning experience.

“Evidence about the positive benefits of LEDs for education is increasing all the time. In the future, I would love to show other schools around to help showcase the advantages of the latest LED lighting.”

The wider challenge

“There are so many Victorian or Edwardian school buildings struggling with an inadequate learning environment,” comments Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys.

“At Energys, commitment to sustainability and energy reduction is our key driver. Recently, the Government has recognised the need to improve energy efficiency via the Priority School Building Programme.

“The Programme isn’t available to all schools however. But nonetheless, all can improve; we are delighted to advise any school that approaches us; we know holistic measures help aging schools save energy and keep children warmer and happier.

LEDs, boiler controls or power optimisation, all are coherent, logical energy saving ideas for schools upgrading from legacy buildings to sustainable equipment, fit for purpose now and into the future.”

Energys Group is a leading specialist in retrofit solutions that achieve energy saving in colleges and schools. Contact us for advice or to ask for a free, no obligation site survey.

BEIS seeks industry engagement to deliver £1.3 billion in energy savings

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is seeking views on how to drastically change the consumption of heat and energy in non-domestic properties after uncovering potential savings of over £1.3 billion a year from private sector initiatives.

In a recently launched call for evidence (CfE), data collected by BEIS found that there was potential for savings of 63,160 GWh/year from increased energy efficiency, representing a 39% reduction from current levels of consumption.

The study also concluded that over a third of this abatement potential (22,080 GWh/year) could come from measures with a private investment payback of three years or less. The bill savings from these measures was £1.3bn a year, in addition to the undisclosed funds which could be saved from the remaining consumption reductions.

The data was collected from a building energy efficiency survey (BEES) of 1.57 million non-domestic properties in England and Wales, where the potential for savings were considered across all types of building. The most cost effective measures were identified to be lighting upgrades improvements in building energy management and insulation.

BEIS’ report also recognised the need to overcome a number of barriers to increased energy efficiency, most commonly found to be economic such as low capital availability and investment or hidden costs. Organisational barriers as well as those related to identifying opportunities to save energy were also found, in addition to behavioural barriers.

To read more on the DBEIS report click here. Alternatively, for more information and advice on how to save energy in offices and commercial buildings, contact us here for a free site survey.