Schools could save millions by tackling carbon

Schools are being encouraged to take advantage of free advice on cutting their energy consumption - helping to tackle climate change and giving their pupils a better sense of environmental stewardship.

British schools spend an estimated £385m on energy every year and implementing carbon-cutting measures could slash the national bill by £70m.

The Carbon Trust unveiled a campaign this week to encourage head teachers to realise the potential saving to be made.

Using Oaklands Secondary School in London’s Tower Hamlets as a launch pad for the campaign, the trust said it has also designed an advisory service tailored to the needs of schools to help heads find the right energy saving projects for their schools.

Oaklands has been working with the trust since 2007 and on Tuesday announced it has managed to cut its energy use by 18%.

Patrice Canavan, head teacher of Oaklands Secondary School explains: “The free carbon survey provided by the Carbon Trust gave us practical advice on improving energy efficiency.

“So far, we have implemented just over half of the recommendations identified by the survey, such as developing an energy management programme, updating old lighting with energy efficient PIR lighting and light sensors, putting timers and controls on our heating systems and insulating pipe work to retain heat.”

She said she sympathised with heads who were concerned about taking on yet another initiative, particularly when it was voluntary and would not impact on league table placement, but urged them to bite the bullet.

As well as cutting bills in the long run, she said, it helped to give pupils a sense of citizenship when it came to environmental responsibilities and made lessons on climate change seem more real.

“You can talk as much as you like about carbon emissions, ” she said.

“But saying the words is very different to doing something about it.”

When asked about whether he would like to see a future where carbon accounting and reporting is obligatory for schools, David Vincent, Carbon Trust director, told edie: “There’s sense in which league tables send the wrong signals and I think the voluntary approach is the right one.

“It shows that there is a clear decision for a school to take the initiative.”

He acknowledged that the Carbon Reduction Commitment, the government initiative to tackle emissions of large energy users, would be likely to impact on most secondary schools and some of the larger junior schools but said that if a school showed an active desire to reduce its carbon footprint, the results were likely to be better.

He also flagged up the availability of £50 million in interest-free Government loans that are now available to public sector organisations, including state schools, to fund energy saving and carbon reduction projects.

To date, the Carbon Trust has worked with over 700 secondary schools and Further Education Colleges across the country, for which it has identified energy savings of around £16 million and carbon emissions savings of 119,000 tonnes annually.

Sam Bond

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