Funding and short-termism ‘holding back public sector sustainability’

A lack of funding and a short-term approach is preventing the UK public sector from enjoying the energy efficiency gains of smart technologies, but these obstacles could easily be overcome.

That’s according to new research by GE Lighting and the Carbon Trust, who surveyed 164 sustainability professionals from public sector organisations including hospitals, councils, and education.

Almost two thirds of respondents said that the availability of funds was the biggest barrier to the implementation of smart technologies. But GE argued that new financing models such as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) or ESCO agreements should help more estates secure capital for new projects.

GE Lighting EMEA president Agostino Renna said: “The good news is that innovative business models exist, such as self-financing, allowing estates to de-risk procurement, prevent lock-in and benefit from major efficiencies, for example from intelligent lighting, which can cut energy bills by up to 80%.”

Other concessional finance available to the public sector includes the Public Works Loan Board and the Green Investment Bank.

Short termism

The second most common reason for failing to install smart technologies was the lack of a long-term strategic plan, chosen by 34% of respondents.

Head of public sector at the Carbon Trust Tim Pryce said that public sector sustainability professionals needed more training to help them overcome these barriers

“[They] need a mix of financial, procurement and project management skills to design and implement investable projects.

“This will help public bodies to build the business case for investing in technologies and equipment that can deliver real efficiency and carbon savings.”

The survey also revealed sustainability professional’s plans for further smart technology implementation; with the following areas highlighted as having the most potential:

· Building efficiency (77%)
· Transport & Mobility (45%)
· Citizen engagement (36%)
· LED Lighting (31%)
· Energy efficiency in public spaces (27%)

Another recent survey, from the NHBC Foundation, found that solar PV panels are the most popular form of green technology for housing associations in the UK.

The research found that almost two thirds had dealt with ‘sustainable technologies’, with 75% saying solar PV was the option they would be most likely to use again.

Brad Allen

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