Carbon Trust

Benefits of driving energy efficiency in schools

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Source: Carbon Trust

Richard Rugg, Director of Carbon Trust Programmes, on the benefits of driving energy efficiency in schools

With a squeeze on school budgets, it has never been more important for local authorities to identify low cost ways to deliver high financial savings. Reducing energy consumption is one of the quickest and simplest ways to deliver direct savings and could help the average secondary school save £21,500 in energy bills – almost equal to the annual salary of a newly qualified teacher.

Cutting the public sector’s costs

UK schools currently account for over half of local authorities’ carbon emissions and they therefore play a pivotal role in cutting public sector’s costs and slashing carbon emissions. With schools currently running a total annual energy bill of £543 million, the Carbon Trust has identified that as much as a quarter of this - £135m - could be saved through simple cost-effective measures, such as installing energy-efficient lighting and heating controls, which typically pay back in less than three years. Other simple steps include turning lights off when not in use, and reviewing school heating systems which often come on too early or turn off too late. Tweaking their running time by just 1 hour can save 10% of heating bills.

In the classroom

There are further benefits beyond just cost saving alone, and introducing low carbon initiatives into schools can also enhance the educational experience for students.

For example, pupil-led switch off campaigns, or giving students the task to create simple inventories of the electrical equipment in their classrooms, can help educate students about energy use and act as real life case studies. Handing initiatives such as these over to students can also be an effective way of implementing changes in the long term, giving pupils a sense of empowerment by taking an active role in the operation of the school.

Today’s pupils are tomorrow’s parents, and involvement in energy efficiency initiatives at an early age is an effective way of changing behaviour in the long term.

What is the Carbon Trust doing?

The Carbon Trust is making a priority of the public sector’s huge potential energy savings. We’re working with 52 local authorities to pilot new school schemes that will save taxpayers millions in energy bills, while slashing carbon emissions.

Carbon Trust’s Collaborative Low Carbon Schools Service will help over 400 pilot schools implement cost-effective energy savings, aiming to help local authorities identify £40 million of annual energy savings in their regions’ schools. Forty-three local authorities have signed up to take part in the pilot and the 10-month programme will help schools save up to 25% on their energy bills.

A further nine East Midland authorities are also taking part in the Carbon Trust’s School Collaboration on Resource Efficiency (SCoRE), a tailored scheme funded by Climate East Midlands which began in March and will eventually be rolled out to all 2,260 publicly funded schools across the region.

Implications of the Carbon Trust’s work

The Carbon Trust has identified a solution which cuts costs by a quarter, lessens the impact we’re having on our environment, all while enhancing the educational experience of our younger generations. The scheme has been rolled out nationwide, and I believe it is a compelling solution which will deliver measurable results quickly. From the initial results and feedback received we will build on the lessons learnt to make our offering stronger and empower more local authorities to get involved.

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