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How to save energy in schools: a guide for school governors

Energys Group's Kevin Cox has some tips for school governors wanting to save energy

Posted by Hannah Vickers | March 03, 2017 | Sustainability

By Kevin Cox, Managing Director, Energys Group

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?

Choosing the right energy efficient technology

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 ageing 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. The Trust estimates that has cut energy use by over 69 tons of CO2 across three of its schools as a result of an upgrade to ‘Save It Easy’ retrofit lighting. The cost-effective technology comprises a plug-in T5 adapter that allows the replacement of old-style fluorescent lamps with energy-efficient equivalents in the existing light fittings.

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.

Tackling the finance barrier 

At Energys Group, we’ve found that leasing arrangements are particularly suitable for schools, and have 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.

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 - Ian Kite, BEMAT Head of Capital and Projects

“There is no requirement for any upfront capital investment; the cost of the lease is paid for through the monthly savings made,” says Ian Kite, BEMAT Head of Capital and Projects. “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.”

Seeking assurance on predicted energy savings 

It is wise for governors to opt for proven technologies that have already been seen to cut energy use in similar applications and schools. 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.

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.

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