A Holistic Approach – the key to Energy Efficiency in Education

Across the industry, there is a growing recognition of the benefits of implementing a well-rounded approach to energy efficiency, instigating long term plans and schemes, rather than focusing on quick wins. 

Jack Saunders, Client Support Officer at Salix Finance working in the School and Academies Programme explores the significant factors to the success of energy initiatives and how the sector can benefit from a holistic approach to energy efficiency.

At a time when the education sector is faced with rising costs, reducing energy consumption creates a key opportunity for schools as they look to minimise their spend and environmental impact. Over the past 14 years we have gained a wealth of experience working with schools on energy efficiency projects across Britain.

As local authorities and the education sector look to contribute towards national carbon reduction, addressing energy concerns holistically is an effective approach. We have found that a holistic approach to energy saving can maximise the potential for energy and carbon savings.

Effective holistic projects involve the installation of a wide range of energy efficiency technologies as well as adopting behavioural changes to streamline energy usage. For example, many schools begin addressing their energy usage by installing LED lighting. This is an excellent technology for school energy efficiency however, a school taking a holistic approach could also consider whether they could install new insulation, boilers, energy management systems and solar PV within the same project to maximise energy savings.

The benefits of taking a holistic approach are extensive. Organisations can observe a greater reduction in their energy use and subsequent energy bills compared to a single technology approach. Additionally, they will also see the full benefit of these savings immediately rather than over time. Furthermore, schools can also benefit from the ‘economies of scale’ factor, saving money on design, installation and labour costs by combining projects together.  Disruption to a site will also be minimised if all projects are installed at once, rather than over a period of years, with the additional benefit of economies of scale and being able to make energy savings sooner. Holistic schemes help reduce energy consumption to the lowest possible level and can help to maximise reductions in energy consumption and carbon footprint whilst also significantly improving the learning environment.

As well as installing new technologies, updating energy control systems and implementing smarter monitoring of energy usage to identify where energy is lost, are also key ways of reducing energy waste.  New smarter technologies allow for more precise control, especially if combined with an energy management system. These systems can give schools the ability to quickly, easily and often automatically adjust their energy systems to adapt to their needs and the external environment in real time.

From our experience, we have found that in order to maximise the benefits of holistic projects, educators should consider ways to inspire and influence staff and students to be more mindful of the energy they use. This includes encouraging everyone to take an active role in reducing energy consumption. The ultimate goal is to empower individuals to implement small daily behavioural changes, such as turning off lights when they’re not being used.

Establishing environmental awareness clubs, providing training to identify energy saving opportunities, and running ‘switch off’ campaigns to ensure equipment is off when not in use, are all effective methods of instigating these behavioural changes. Strategies like these encourage individuals to take ownership and pride in energy management, motivating them to sustain initiatives and look out for new ways to improve efficiency.

For many organisations within the education sector, there can be obstacles to executing such wide scale projects. However, working with funding providers like Salix, can make the implementation of holistic programmes easily achievable. We established the Switching to Low Energy Scheme to help schools achieve the maximum possible energy savings. Under the scheme applicant schools receive a full site survey identifying all the measures they can install to reduce their energy consumption to the lowest possible level as well as advice on the behavioural changes they could implement to further maximise savings. Advice and support through this scheme has helped participant schools save thousands on their energy bills.

Applying a holistic approach to energy management will not only help you to set realistic goals and achieve clear results, but it will also ensure you inspire the campus-wide culture of energy saving critical to successful energy management.

For more information on the funding available from Salix, please see: www.salixfinance.co.uk