Fuelling education


How schools can conserve energy and save money for educational spending

We know that schools spend more money than they need to on their energy bills. Taking action on this would not only free up budgets for educational spending, it would also help to combat climate change.

Schools in England currently spend around £500 million a year on fuel bills. The Carbon Trust estimates that, with just low and no cost measures, these schools could collectively achieve annual savings of £70 million. In most cases, significant savings measures can be carried out within weeks.

Some of the simplest changes, such as making sure that lighting, heating and devices such as computers are used efficiently and turned off when not needed, can have a huge impact. Setting thermostats to the right temperature can also make a real difference – well over half of a typical school’s energy bill is related to heating and hot water. Turning heating down by just one degree can result in an eight per cent reduction in heating bills. The Department for Education recommends a temperature of 21°C for special schools.

Further savings can be made through investment in building fabric, timers and controls, upgrading lighting, and putting in a new heating system. It is also possible to look at generating renewable energy on site with technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines and biomass boilers. These measures not only help cut overheads, they have the supplementary benefit of creating a more pleasant and effective learning environment.

It is important to plan for the maintenance of equipment as well. A regularly serviced boiler can save as much as ten per cent on annual heating costs. Without regular cleaning of windows, fittings and skylights, or the replacement of old and dim lamps, lighting levels can fall by 30 per cent in two to three years. Encouraging staff to provide regular feedback on areas that are too hot, cold or draughty can help ensure that problems are addressed promptly.

Funding for energy efficiency

Financial support is available through the Government to invest in energy efficiency technology. Around £8 million of interest free loan funding has been made available for maintained and grant maintained schools. This can be used to finance up to 100 per cent of the costs of energy saving projects.

Of course, plenty can be achieved with no spending at all, but when money is spent wisely the returns on investment are compelling. For example, replacing old lighting with highly efficient LED lighting can provide payback in less than two years.

At a time when fuel bills are increasing and public spending is decreasing, going green can provide a much needed boost for the education sector. Implementing energy efficiency is one of the best ways for schools to take control of their own resources and to respond to the challenges of climate change. By making savings, schools can also ensure that scarce funds are channelled more directly at meeting educational needs; investment in energy efficiency really is an investment in education.

Further information

Joseph Williams is Schools Programme Manager at the Carbon Trust:

For more information on interest free loans for schools, visit:


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