Energys Group – leaders in energy efficiency solutions for the education sector with a focus on LED and T5 lighting solutions – has delivered a retrofit lighting solution to the Bedfordshire East Multi Academy Trust (BEMAT). The project has been funded through an operational lease from Utility Rentals.

Educational policy and methodology may change substantially over time, but one aspect of schools’ provisions remains constant – and that is the need to ensure that children and teachers have access to the latest technology, and are able to go about the vital process of learning in a comfortable environment.

Of course, in these times of austerity, minimising expenditure is rarely far from the mind of anyone engaged in the public sector. By extension, securing financing for upgrade or refurbishment programmes can be challenging. Salix Finance is one well known Government-funded initiative which is playing an integral role in tackling this challenge, by delivering 100% interest-free capital to the public sector for energy reduction projects. However, it is by no means the answer for every project.

Alternatives to Salix Finance

This turned out to the case for BEMAT (Bedfordshire East Multi Academy Trust), an alliance of educational establishments comprising Gothic Mede Academy, Gravenhurst Academy, Etonbury Academy, Robert Bloomfield Academy and Samuel Whitbread Academy.  Determining that the time was right to undertake a lighting upgrade at three of the five schools (the others are expected to follow further down the line), BEMAT Head of Capital and Projects Ian Kite initially looked towards Salix Finance to enable the project to go forward, but various factors meant that he was obliged to think again.

The answer to the finance challenge came in the form of Utility Rentals’ operational lease solution. A player in the education world for more than two decades, Utility Rentals has partnered with Energys Group to provide an operating lease package that allows schools across the UK to acquire fully installed and maintained energy-saving solutions.

“We needed an alternative to Salix – and the Energys team was quick to respond with a solution.  It became clear very quickly that an operational lease was the best way forward for BEMAT,” says Mr Kite. “In fact, it offers significant advantages over the Salix route. There is no requirement for any up-front capital investment; the cost of the lease is paid for through the monthly savings made – and all of the lighting is fully maintained for the duration of the lease. It makes sound commercial sense – and it de-risks the whole process for us.”

Building the business case

As would be expected of such a major project, Mr Kite needed to win the approval of his senior colleagues and Directors before commencing with the project.  “Initial feedback was mixed,” says Ian Kite. “There was a feeling that the energy savings and projected outcomes looked ‘too good be true’, and I was met with a level of skepticism.

Mr Kite and his team were therefore required to undertake a process of due diligence on Energys. He looked to his sector peers – and received an enthusiastic reference from Hertfordshire County Council which has seen Energys supply and install low carbon retrofit solutions at 475 of its schools.

With due diligence complete, the decision makers were convinced. BEMAT then pressed ahead with a roll-out of Energys’ patented Save It Easy retrofit lighting technology. Comprising a plug-in T5 adapter that allows the replacement of old-style flourescent lamps with energy-efficient equivalents in the existing light fittings, Save It Easy can deliver energy savings as high as 65%. Not surprisingly, then, it has seen massive adoption over the last few years, with more than 1.5 million devices now installed across Europe.

Low disruption

“It has been estimated that we can cut energy costs by over 69 tons of CO2 (across the three schools), so the case for Save It Easy was highly compelling,” says Kite. “When the Energys team got to work on the site, we were also impressed by how much effort was made to avoid disruption to the daily life of the school. To this end, their engineers – all of whom undergo DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks – undertook most of the work outside of school hours, which was tremendously helpful.”

Improved light quality

Ian Kite is already able to reflect on a project that looks set to satisfy all of its objectives. Not only are BEMAT already registering welcome reductions in its energy bills, the Principals have also observed a general improvement in the learning environment on the part of both teachers and pupils.

“There have been positive comments from staff about the quality of the light since the Energys retrofits were installed,” says Kite. “Having read about the positive impact of newer lighting technology on pupil concentration and behaviour, we are also expectant of some other benefits that will become more evident as time goes by. So it’s a great result for us and I am sure that, not too far in the future, we will be initiating similar projects at BEMAT’s other schools.”

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