Carbon friendly measures for Schools

In an era where the need for austerity and cuts are frequently discussed, opportunities can often be overlooked. The case for the education sector to invest in carbon management is compelling. Over the past few years fuel and electricity prices have risen steeply, putting additional financial pressure on schools. Cutting carbon and energy bills can liberate budgets. In fact the Carbon Trust have calculated the average secondary school could save enough to pay for an additional teacher’s salary  by properly managing energy use, and implementing low and no-cost measures.

The Carbon Trust ran a service for local authorities, helping them to run a pilot carbon management programme in a sample of their schools. Over fifty local authorities from around England, from Cornwall to Cumbria, completed this programme. They succeeded in identifying energy saving measures adding up to a total saving of £2.4 million, which equates to nearly 15,000 tonnes of carbon.  Following the pilot these local authorities committed to rolling the service across their school estates, with the potential to save over £20 million and 130,000 tonnes of carbon.

Three efficiency areas
The three key areas of focus for energy efficiency are switching off equipment, proper maintenance and refurbishment. Simply switching off lights and ICT when they are not needed can make a real difference. Pewsey Primary School in Wiltshire identified annual savings of over 20 per cent in their energy bill just by making sure that all their lighting and equipment was turned off when it was not needed.

Ongoing maintenance and proper operation can have a surprisingly significant impact, for example a regularly serviced boiler can save up to 10 per cent on annual heating costs. Often this is as simple as making sure that the right temperature is set on thermostats.

Sometimes it is enough to change only a part, rather than an entire system. Richard Whittington School in Bishop Stortford managed to shave over  20 per cent off their heating bills with just a £6,000 investment in boiler controls. They had not changed their heating system since it was installed in 1977, so by upgrading this and properly setting broken or faulty thermostats and timers, they managed to get a return on their investment in four years.

Refurbishment of building fabric and installing new energy efficient equipment also makes a lot of sense, particularly since there a number of financing options available for schools where the repayments can be entirely offset by the savings on bills. Energy efficiency is also a way of improving the learning environment.

Priorslee Primary School in Telford had a problem with under-lit classrooms. With help from their local authority they invested in more efficient ceiling‑mounted lighting, along with occupancy and daylight sensors. This resulted in a 30% reduction in lighting costs as well as increased light levels for students.

Lighting is one of the biggest opportunities for investment in new equipment, as it makes up around a fifth of a typical school’s energy costs. Big steps forward have been made in the affordability of LED technology over the last few years. The returns on the investment of replacing all lighting with LEDs can be as little as two or three years. This has the added benefit of reducing maintenance costs because they last longer, and therefore need to be replaced less often.

Of course there are lots of options for improving energy efficiency which can make sense for schools: from insulation and double glazing, through to solar panels and biomass boilers.

There are also supplementary benefits to implementing energy efficiency measures. It can be seen as an educational opportunity for students, providing practical learning opportunities and real‑life examples. This can be integrated into classes such as Maths, English, Science and Citizenship. By engaging students the impact can also carry over to their home life, and influence parents and communities.

Carbon Management
By investing in carbon management local authorities and schools will not only see the financial and carbon benefits for their own organisations, but will show leadership to other schools and their local communities. Climate change has consequences that will impact future generations, and by taking action on carbon the education sector has the chance to make a difference to the future of the next generation.

Further information