Big news for the education sector: The Government has announced investment to shield schools from high energy bills and boost budgets. £500 million for energy efficiency upgrades in schools and colleges, and an extra £2bn for schools next year will be split between mainstream schools and ‘high needs.’

The Government’s statement says that schools and colleges in England will be allocated a share of the £500 million to spend on energy efficiency upgrades, helping to save on bills during the winter months and manage energy consumption.

This will not only help them save money, but it will make them more energy efficient during the cold period and increase winter resilience for future years.

Central estimations show that on average, a primary school will receive approximately £16,000, a secondary school will get £42,000 and a further education college group will benefit from £290,000. Improvements could include installing better heating controls, insulation to reduce heat loss from pipes or switching to energy efficient lighting.

£2 billion of new money will also be allocated between mainstream schools and ‘high needs’ funding. Local councils will get an extra £400 million for high needs budgets, to help support children with special educational needs or disabilities. Academies, maintained mainstream schools and special schools will all be guaranteed a funding boost, which will arrive from April next year.

“This money is very welcome news for our education sector customers,” comments Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys Group.

“At Energys we know that energy efficiency technology upgrades can make schools more economical on the energy front, but also far more comfortable, modern and better for learning.

“We urge schools in receipt of this funding to act swiftly and skilfully to maximise the benefits of this much-needed Government intervention. For any school or college that needs advice on what can be achieved, we’re happy to help – and, where funding does not cover the entire cost of a project(s) – we have a dedicated £3.5M Energys Schools Fund of our own that schools can access as a ‘top up’. ”

Some wider responses have however been muted. EDIE reports that climate charity Ashden, which runs the ‘Let’s Go Zero’ campaign for schools in partnership with Global Action Plan, is disappointed with the Department for Education’s offer. It has argued that the funding pot is too small and the allocation period too short-term to deliver a meaningful response to the problem.

“While we welcome the Government’s recognition that schools and colleges are facing a tough winter and need help managing their skyrocketing energy bills, we must be clear that this is merely a sticking plaster when a long-term solution is desperately needed,” said Let’s Go Zero’s Programme Manager Alex Green.

UK Energy Independence

The Government has announced what it calls major steps forward to secure Britain’s energy independence. The Energy Bill measures include a mix of nuclear and energy efficiency.

Simone Rossi, CEO of EDF Energy said: “Greater energy efficiency will strengthen Britain’s energy independence.” John Pettigrew, Chief Executive of National Grid, commented: “We welcome the continuing progress of the Energy Bill.

“National Grid plays a vital role at the heart of the energy transition and we look forward to continuing to work together with Government to realise its bold Net Zero goals including delivering 50GW of offshore wind power and establishing an independent system operator and planner.

“It is clear that progressing the energy transition at pace is the surest route to more affordable bills, greater energy resilience and a more energy independent UK.”

The UK has also set a new ambition to reduce energy demand by 15 per cent by 2030. This is backed by a new £1 billion ECO+ insulation scheme, and a major expansion to the Government’s public awareness campaign; all of which Government promises will help households cut back on energy waste and deliver warmer homes and buildings and cheaper energy bills.

With around 250 clauses, The Energy Bill is the most significant piece of primary legislation since 2013, designed to liberate private investment in clean technologies, protect consumers, and reform the UK’s energy system so that it is efficient, safe and resilient.

Supermarket sweep

The Co-op has convened Tesco, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and other organisations to issue a rallying cry to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, urging his Government to remove policy barriers to energy efficiency.

The businesses want to see joined-up fiscal and financial action that holistically incentivises investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

Their joint letter calls any future failure to accelerate the energy transition, “A missed economic, security and environmental opportunity.

“We would very much welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss how together we can seize the opportunities ahead of us,” it concludes.

Elaborating on the letter, the Co-op’s Chief Executive Shirine Khoury-Haq said: “The energy market is at a crisis point and we need urgent Government action to deliver energy security, drive economic growth and move us closer to Net Zero.

“The UK is still too reliant on fossil fuels and we need to create more UK renewable energy to green the energy grid.”

CCC pivots towards efficiency

In a month where energy efficiency hits the limelight, The Head of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) says Government policy must focus on efficiency and ensure electricity is cheaper than gas.

Using Twitter, CCC Chief Executive Chris Stark summarised the group’s reaction to the Government’s Autumn Statement and outlined its analysis of what current spending targets mean for progress on key areas such as low-carbon heat and energy efficiency.

Mr Stark said the measures announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last month had placed, “A welcome focus,” on energy efficiency. Mr Stark also welcomed the £6bn budget commitment over 2025-28, which he said should help to provide confidence to businesses, workers and training providers that there will be future markets for energy efficiency.

There is a lot going on in efficiency, he concluded, adding that notably different policy approaches were now emerging in devolved administrations for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – something the CCC will keep monitoring.

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