As energy experts here at Bright Spark, we offer some suggestions for how schools can not only cut their energy bills but also make a profit in the process...

Back in February 2017, The Guardian reported that schools in England were “To see the first real-term funding cuts for 20 years.” By April 2017, the BBC had reported that, “Pressure on school budgets in England is leading to a narrower secondary curriculum, with teaching posts in some subjects being cut.”

Whichever way you look at it, one thing’s for sure – schools are feeling the financial pinch. But what most schools aren’t aware of is that the cost of keeping the lights and heating on is increasing by up to 10% per annum every year.

Expenditure on energy consumption in schools is one of the top five highest costs, with some of the larger schools spending over £100,000 per annum on gas and electricity.

We’ve been working closely with many schools and MATs to help them review and reduce their spending on energy consumption, while also becoming more sustainable. We focus on all aspects of energy use across a school’s estate, before working out how to save using the concept of marginal gains.

And the first thing schools should look at doing is to carry out an energy consumption health-check.

Many schools we visit haven’t reviewed their supplier for years; most stay within their LA schemes, stuck in a static ‘one size fits all’ contract. The main reason for this is that schools simply don’t have the time to carry out complex audits and research other options.

However, we know where significant savings can be made. To take one small primary academy as an example, simply switching gas and electricity supplier saved the school just over £2,500 per annum.

Switching to LED lighting ought to form part of your energy review, but schools should be aware that unscrupulous companies are making significant sums of money by selling poor quality LED lighting with no design service and warranties limited to five years.

High-quality LED lighting will last a lot longer than normal bulbs, offering an average of 50,000 hours of burn life, which equates to 25 years within a typical school setting. Schools can also benefit from reductions in their energy bills of up to 75%, lower maintenance costs and avoiding the capital cost of replacing their lighting.

Finally, another area worth considering is solar energy. Beyond saving on energy expenditure, this can also be a way for schools to ‘make’ money – and there doesn’t even need to be an initial cost, since there are numerous sustainable energy grants available from government and LAs that will cover the cost of installing solar panels.

In one primary school on the south coast of England, for example, we secured a grant to have the technology installed at no cost to the school. In year one, it saved £1,949.67 on the school’s energy bill, with 90% of the solar power generated used by the school. It was then able to sell the remaining 10% back to its energy supplier.