Expert advice on keeping energy costs down

Have you diarised when your current energy supply contract comes to an end? Did you know your school could be subsidising other businesses if it’s in the wrong energy procurement basket? Is your school still paying CCL, VAT or other taxes when it should be exempt? Are you worried about rising fuel bills for your school?
The chances are that everyone is going to say yes to question number four, but I suspect a fair proportion will have to look long and hard at their paperwork before responding to the other three.
We know from attending a variety of education events over the last few months that those responsible for energy bills in school are often overwhelmed, confused and frustrated by the avalanche of information and options available and would give anything for some clarity and simplicity.

We understand that, and it’s part of the reason why we set up E4E in the first place. As a not‑for-profit organisation, our focus is on providing simple help and advice which can really make a difference to keeping those costs down.
A wide-ranging approach
We provide what is effectively a ‘one stop shop’, taking a holistic approach to help schools save energy using our OJEU compliant approved partner framework. By charging £1 per pupil per annum for three years, we provide energy management services, acting as a virtual energy manager and helping schools in developing a cohesive energy strategy.
E4E has four main areas of focus. Energy procurement covers bill analysis, intelligent brokering and surety on energy budgets. Energy efficiency involves an audit followed by recommendations on how to implement measures such as LED lighting, boiler and voltage optimisation, IT and other technologies such as pre-fabricated new build. Energy generation includes the development of solar and biomass schemes to save schools money and generate revenue.

Finally, energy culture involves working with staff and pupils to help change long term behaviour and implement energy saving initiatives. Each is important in its own right, but a combination of all four is the only real way to reduce the impact of rising energy prices.
Reviewing current contracts
The easiest and quickest way to start to deliver  results is the ability to review your existing energy contracts and cut bills. So how do you shave those numbers? The best place to start is by checking the end date on your current contract. This won’t be on the bill but it should be on your initial correspondence and nearer the time, you will also receive a renewal letter. Beware, energy companies tend to just roll you forward onto the next agreement – which is often uncompetitive – unless you proactively stop them. Once you have the date, diarise to give yourself plenty of time to look around as the termination notice period can be from 30 days to a year.
If you have recently converted to an academy, you may need to contact your local authority to get details of your current energy contract. You can make the change yourself, either by finding an OJEU approved framework, running a competitive tender exercise, or alternatively working with an independent, impartial service to find the best deal.
In our experience, these tend to be one or two year deals – locking yourself in to a longer fixed term contact can backfire. If you find a good quote when shopping around, then ask the supplier to secure it for you, so you automatically move to the new deal when your current contract ends.
By working with an independent not for profit buying group such as ourselves, we believe you should be able to save at least 10 per cent on current market energy prices and a guaranteed price cap with our flexible energy products means you can be confident you won’t end up with higher bills.
The power of collaboration
You don’t have to go it alone on the energy stakes. At E4E we work on the basis that collaborative procurement is the best way to achieve maximum savings.
Our collaborative procurement baskets are aimed specifically at the schools market because that’s where our expertise lies. We know the peak hours for schools in terms of energy usage are during the day, so we look for deals which provide the best market prices to suit your timetable.
It really helps if you can get into a regime of winding down power usage after 4pm as after this time electricity prices shoot up – typically it costs 14 times more to get the electricity to you between 4pm and 7pm than it does for the rest of the day.
If your school is part of a more general procurement basket it can have the opposite effect, as you end up subsidising businesses who run their operations much later in the day.
The first of the year’s deadlines to sign up for a basket was April 1, but there’s still plenty of time to join forces with other schools for the October 1 deadline, and remember that doing so opens up access to flexible products that wouldn’t otherwise be available to schools.
From this April, many schools will have become exempt from paying the CRC carbon tax, but as it always pays to check the small print, so make sure you confirm this with your local authority.
You also need to look out for the Climate Change Levy. Schools or Academies that are on five per cent tax may not be liable to pay CCL, so check with your current supplier who can tell you if you should be paying. CCL is charged per Kwh of energy, which means the bigger the user you are, the more you could save by finding out if you are exempt.
Practical changes
There are plenty of small changes that schools can make to help save energy and smart meters are quite literally a very smart move. Installing smart meters in different buildings, or even on different floors, can give you an instant picture of where your energy is being used, while upgrading fluorescent lighting for LED lights can also make a difference.
Technology can be used more widely to control items such as lighting timer switches, climate control sensors or remotely controlled ICT or heating systems, and adding insulation to roof spaces and/or walls will make the building more energy efficient.
 By monitoring these areas over a period of time you can soon make small changes to save on bills and you can even use that realtime information in the classroom to teach pupils the principles of energy awareness.
If budgets allows, then moving towards larger investments such as the installation of photo-voltaic panels for solar energy or biomass boilers is a sensible investment, especially given the benefits of the Feed In Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive potentially providing a source of income for the school.
Interest free loans for these improvements and more can be applied for through the Government’s SALIX funding scheme and E4E can provide support for funding applications. The loan is then repaid through the savings you make.
Engaging pupils
We believe it’s really important to engage youngsters in the classroom about the environment and the need to save energy. If we can help enthuse and inform them at school, then these are the messages they can take home to their parents as well.
We’ve already seen how schools can use smart meters to bring energy lessons to life and the beauty of the environment and energy saving as a topic is that it combines the STEM topics of science, technology, engineering and maths together.
The world’s resources are certainly not infinite and, if we’re not careful, it will be today’s generation that will be left to pick up the pieces of our wasteful approach to energy. Showing them what can be achieved now will put them well onto the road to saving the planet – or at least treating it better – in the future.

The co-operative approach
We’ve already touched on the power of collaboration and we think it’s a method which works very well within the schools environment, especially for multi-academy trusts.
Enabling schools to have membership of the Co-op – and it’s not compulsory to be able to take advantage of our services – ensures that they are at the heart of everything we do. We don’t have shareholders or investors demanding large profits, we are simply working for the benefit of the schools community.
Becoming an E4E member costs £500, and that provides a share of the profits and voting rights, plus access to an online members’ portal and the opportunity to share best practice.
Plus, we’re investing up to half of any profits into educational good causes, such as energy awareness teaching packs, with the remainder split between member dividends and investment back into E4E.
In conclusion, there is no one magic switch to saving energy but, by being proactive now, schools can take a huge number of small steps to help them on their way. Surely that’s a lesson worth learning.
Further information