Ten green tips for schools

Procurement cooperative Energy for Education has ten top tips to help schools manage their energy more efficiently

1 Develop an energy strategy for 2020

Industry forecasts are predicting that network and fixed costs are set to increase by up to 300% between now and 2020 and overall bills are likely to double. In order to offset these rising costs every school will need to put in place a strategy to:
* Buy their energy more effectively
* Reduce their energy usage by investing in energy efficiency measures
* Reduce their energy usage through better management and cultural change  

2 Get the experts in

Ask an energy specialist like Energy for Education (E4E) to come in and carry out a full energy audit in your school. This will provide you with the information you need to develop an energy strategy by highlighting and quantifying short-, medium- and long-term opportunities to save costs, reduce energy usage and access funding for energy efficiency improvements. E4E has developed its e-mark scoring system which enables schools to see at a glance how it is doing.

3 Sign up for a smart meter

A smart meter can help you monitor your energy usage accurately, work out exactly what you’re spending and when so that you can learn to use your energy more efficiently. Smart meters can be installed by a number of suppliers across your site to allow you to monitor your energy by building, department or even room. Using this information you can identify where and when you are wasting energy and most importantly hold staff and pupils accountable for their energy use and encourage a more responsible attitude.

4 Get everyone involved

There are numerous free or low-cost software packages available that will let you monitor and analyse the usage data being captured by your meters and smart meters. Combined with smart meters in every building, the management software will let you monitor and understand the impact of changes you make across every part of the school. This allows you to set up incentives and competitions between departments or year groups to see who can save the most energy as well as integrate this data into lessons and curriculum projects.

5 Peak time power down

Did you know that between the peak times of 4pm and 7pm the cost of getting your electricity is typically 14 times more than it costs during the rest of the day (4-7pm can cost over 8p compared to the standard charge of 0.6p)? Schools are well placed to power down before the 4pm watershed, so working with the estates teams to implement a new regime of powering down as much as possible before 4pm and incentivising the staff and pupils to play their part can realise significant savings, in excess of 10k per annum in some secondary schools.

6 Lower your usage

Make some simple changes to make your buildings more energy efficient. Typically most schools can reduce their energy usage by between 10-20 percent by targeting:
* Lighting – swap fluorescent lighting for LED and implement intelligent controls
* Heating optimisation – control your boiler’s firing pattern to decrease the number of cycles necessary to heat your buildings
* Insulation – adding insulation to your roof spaces and/or walls will make your building more efficient and cut heating costs
* ICT – invest in low-energy devices and in particular infrastructure components such as servers, switches, printers and screens

Interest-free loans for these improvements can be applied for through the government’s SALIX funding scheme. The loan is repaid through the savings you make: https://salixfinance.co.uk/loans/schools-loans  

7 Proactive contract management

Most schools have numerous energy contracts and keeping track of all of them is vital. If you are not proactive with regard to renewals, you are likely to be automatically tied into a new contract, or placed on deemed rates, both routes typically result in significantly higher costs than the best deals on the open market. You’ll find your contract end date on your initial correspondence from the energy company, but not on your bills. Put the end date in your calendar to give yourself plenty of time to find a good deal when it’s time to switch.

8 Shop around

Start well before your contract ends and get a quote up to 120 days before your contract end date. There’s no obligation to sign up for a contract when you get a quote, but once you’ve found a supplier they will hold the prices for you and your contract with the new supplier will take effect after your current contract ends. You will need to ensure that you comply with OJEU procurement rules (see the OJEU outlines here https://www.ojec.com/Threshholds.aspx) or to be sure you’re compliant use an OJEU approved framework like the E4E framework.

9 Bill validation

Many schools are not on the correct tariffs and don’t know it. By getting an expert like E4E to check your bills and ensure your school’s standing charges are correct, you could save hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year. This can be done at any time and is not linked to the contract term or end date and in some cases overcharging can be recovered for up to three-five years.

10 Collaborate with other schools

Where you can operate within a group of schools and purchase your energy together, then you can access far better deals from the market than you can as a single school. This is the model that E4E has set up to enable collaborative purchasing through the creation of schools-only energy baskets in April and October every year (see panel).


Energy for Education

E4E is a not-for-profit energy procurement co-operative run by experienced education and energy professionals. Aimed at helping schools cut the cost of buying energy, it uses collaborative purchasing power to achieve the best discounts and gives schools access to a range of products that would not be available to them as single customers.

E4E offers a three-pronged approach:
* Energy procurement – bill analysis, intelligent brokering and surety on energy budgets
* Energy efficiency – an audit followed by recommendations on how to implement measures such as LED lighting, biomass boilers and solar panels
* Energy culture – working with staff and pupils to help change behaviour and implement energy-saving initiatives

Although co-operative membership isn’t compulsory, for a £500 fee schools gain a share of the profits and voting rights, plus access to an online portal to share best practice.

Up to half of the co-op’s profits will be invested in educational good causes and the remainder split between member dividends and investment back into E4E. For more information, visit www.energyforeducation.coop.


Saving time

Schools wanting to cut their energy bills have until 1 April to join Energy for Education’s collaborative procurement basket and achieve maximum savings. “Traditionally, the two best times to buy energy are in April for the summer and October for the winter,” says co-founder John Edwards. “The more schools that join our procurement basket, the better cost savings we can deliver and the wider range of products we can offer.” Edwards adds that schools should be able to save at least 10 percent on energy prices. For more information, visit www.energyforeducation.coop


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