The 5 barriers to carbon reduction in the public sector – and how to overcome them
The same problems keep getting in the way of driving down energy use and CO2 emissions in local-authority-run buildings. Yet, as best practice from across the country demonstrates, these barriers are far from insurmountable.
Key learning points:
• Targeting energy waste typically delivers more CO2 savings than on-site renewables;
• Retrofit technologies represent a less disruptive and more cost-effective option;
• Financing arrangements, such as leasing, can make energy saving possible at no capital cost;
• Inertia is costly – it ignores the rising cost of energy, which will only continue to erode funds;
• Turn-key solutions, including supply and maintenance, can ease the strain of the energy-saving process.
1. Lack of knowledge
Lack of knowledge about energy-saving technology is perhaps the most common barrier to the creation of more efficient public sector building stock. Much of the information on offer from suppliers can be confusing for laypeople – especially in light of pervasive ‘greenwash’.
This confusion means that it is all the more advisable to opt for the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of carbon reduction. High-profile ‘eco-bling’, such as solar PV panels, may be an exciting prospect, but most buildings already waste more energy than they would hope to generate through solar power. Targeting areas of energy waste – such as outdated lighting, inefficient boilers, uninsulated plant room equipment – typically delivers more substantial carbon savings than on-site renewables.
2. Aversion to risk
It’s likely that any senior staff tasked with meeting environmental goals will meet resistance from people within the local authority that are not convinced of the benefits of energy-saving technology or carbon reduction in general. For many local authorities, a risk-averse, ‘do nothing’ approach may seem prudent. However, this inertia is costly – and it ignores the rising cost of energy, which will only continue to erode funds.
If aversion to risk is the problem, it is wise to opt for proven technologies that have already been seen to cut energy use in similar applications. Technologies that achieve rapid payback are likely to be more palatable to the risk-averse. And dealing with well-established suppliers that provide lengthy warranties can ensure peace of mind.
3. Lack of funding
‘No money in the pot’ may be the most insurmountable barrier to installing energy-saving equipment. Indeed, with budgets stretched and Salix’s government-backed financing reduced in scope, it can feel like there’s simply no way to fund projects.
However, the rapid payback periods of many energy-efficient technologies are increasingly making it easier to access alternative types of funding. Many local authorities are turning to leasing arrangements that involve ‘renting’ the new energy-saving equipment from the provider. This means the lease can be treated as ‘off balance sheet’, rather than a form of purchase. And, since the installation of energy-efficient technology unlocks instant savings on both energy bills and also maintenance costs, a lease arrangement on low-energy lighting or boiler controls can be structured to be cash-positive.
4. Building closures and disruption
Carbon reduction may be a priority, but keeping schools, libraries and civic buildings open and operational is of far greater importance. It’s impossible to shut facilities during a lengthy or invasive installation of equipment, even if energy savings are on offer.
For this reason, the public sector tends to favour retrofit technologies. Solutions such as retrofit T5 and LED converters can be installed in a fraction of the time (often outside of working hours) and with far less disruption than a complete lighting overhaul. Many local authority premises also favour energy-saving works that don’t require access to the main areas of a building, such as plant-room boiler controls and pipework insulation.
5. Lack of support
The final barrier is often a simple issue of time. Many local authorities lack the staff resources to manage a large-scale, multi-site carbon-reduction project. The task of filling in paperwork for funding and co-ordinating works can often be overwhelming.
For this reason, many local authorities are now partnering with trusted suppliers who are able to provide turn-key solutions. In general, turn-key solutions – where supply, fit, financing and maintenance of the new lighting or boiler controls is provided in a single package – can ease the strain of the energy-saving process.
Overcoming the barriers to carbon reduction is often a case of knowing where to look for support and finding the right technologies for the needs of a particular building type. Indeed, what may initially seem like an insurmountable barrier can actually be taken care of relatively easily.
In my experience…
Public sector staff sound off about carbon reduction
“One of the reasons we selected Save It Easy was because it had been independently tested by VDE, a leading European testing house, to prove that it meets safety standards.” Steven Cope – Environmental Officer (Energy) at Rotherham MBC.
More than 70 council-run properties in West Sussex, including civic buildings, fire stations, libraries and care homes, have been upgraded to energy-efficient lighting using retrofit T5 converter, Save It Easy®. As a result, West Sussex County Council is saving £78,745 a year in energy bills and 389 tonnes of CO2.
St Edward’s Church of England Primary School in Plymouth installed two Boiler Optimisers from Energys Group. As a result of the installation, the school has achieved proven energy savings of 18%, slashing its fuel bills and carbon footprint.
Following an installation of T5 retrofit converter, Save It Easy®, at three schools in Rotherham, which achieved lighting energy savings of more than 40%, a large-scale roll out of low-energy lighting is now underway. Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council is now planning to install Save It Easy at possibly more than 50 of its schools, with potential carbon savings of 800 tonnes.
How Energys Group can help
• LED retrofit lighting
Typical electricity savings of up to 90%
• T5 fluorescent retrofit lighting
Typical electricity savings of 37–65%
• Boiler Optimisers
Typical fuel savings of 15–30%
Get in contact with the Energys team to discuss how we can help you to overcome the barriers to carbon reduction in your local authority.
Tel: 01403 786212
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