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.

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