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Schools failing in energy efficiency

10 February 2011

Schools are under-performing on energy efficiency on DEC ratings with 14 percent scoring G ratings and only 15 percent scoring above average according to the LessEn League Table.

A League Table released by LessEn, the free global energy efficiency exchange, has analysed data provided by 11,993 primary and secondary schools in England and Wales that have been granted a DEC (Display Energy Certificate) rating*. It ranks 152 local authorities with more than 10 school buildings per local authority. Of the schools involved in the LessEn League Table, only 29 (less than 0.24 percent) achieved an A rating, while 1,703 (14 percent) were given the lowest rating of G.
DECs provide an energy rating of a building from A to G, where A is very efficient and G is the least efficient. These ratings are based on the actual amount of metered energy used by the building over a period of 12 months. Over half the public buildings on the England and Wales DEC database are schools.
Alexandra Notay, Project Director at LessEn, said: "The LessEn league table shows that only 15 percent of schools are above average in their building performance. With over £1.5bn in budget cuts and the phasing out of programmes such as ‘Building Schools for the Future,’ it is easy to see why energy efficiency may be low on schools’ agendas. However, simple low-cost measures and behavioural change can help to increase energy efficiency in our schools, providing both ecological and financial benefits, for example, through reduced energy bills and improved learning environments."
At the top of the LessEn League Table, averaging a DEC rating of C is Dorset local authority, which has had an energy team in place since the late 1970s, and now employs a full time Schools Energy Officer. Calculating that schools in its area account for 60 percent of emissions, the energy team focuses on improving procurement of gas and electricity, automatic energy data capture and analysis, awareness programmes in schools to engage staff and pupils, and close liaison with the Carbon Trust to develop workable energy efficiency strategies.
Mike Petitdemange, Principal Engineer for the Sustainable Property Team at Dorset County Council said: "Dorset has consistently invested money in energy conservation and we have good data going back to 1978 showing the progress we have made to reduce our fuel bills. We can demonstrate that our annual energy costs would have amounted to £4.6m more, if we had continued to consume fuel at the same rate that we were 30 years ago. Schools account for a very major proportion of energy usage in Dorset, and we are proud that our efforts have resulted in a good DEC rating, but we are always pushing to improve upon this."
Schools offer a significant opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of future generations and the Carbon Trust is working with schools across the UK. Richard Rugg, Head of Public Sector at the Carbon Trust, said: "We have worked with over a thousand schools and further education colleges throughout the UK and helped them to save many millions in energy costs. But there is still much to be done. The best results are achieved when organisations work together to reduce their energy costs and carbon emissions. That’s why we are working with local authorities to encourage collaboration among schools in their areas."
Of the top 20 local authorities in the LessEn League Table, the majority are in rural rather than urban locations. Exceptions to this are Richmond-Upon-Thames, Stockton-Upon-Tees and Hillingdon. However, there are huge differences to be seen even in neighbouring local authorities. In London for example, the average DEC rating in Islington is 93, which puts it into the D band, while Haringey is in the F band and Hackney and Camden are G rated.
Notay continued: "Our aim is not to criticise the weaker performers, but to point clearly towards solutions and advice that can help to tackle these challenges. We’ve heard repeatedly from our partners that the two biggest challenges in achieving energy efficiency are making sense of the complex data and securing ‘buy-in’ from individuals and communities. Lessen is a public forum that provides public, usable data and free, tried and tested advice to help us all do better."
As part of its global commitment to exchanging free energy efficiency advice and solutions, LessEn is complementing the League Table launch with "Top Ten Tips for Schools", tried and tested advice to help schools and local authorities to reduce their energy and carbon footprint. These tips were developed in consultation with Arup, the global firm of consulting engineers, and a partner in LessEn. These are backed by energy efficiency case studies from the education sector.
Alexandra Notay continued: "Our expert partners keep reminding us that ‘Buildings don’t use energy – people do’ and whilst budgets are tight there is still so much we can do to improve our energy performance at home, at school and at work. We just have to take responsibility for it. We all know that technology can make an incredible difference but few people realise that the biggest reductions can often be achieved by tackling simple things, like turning off lights, heating and computers when they’re not in use. We hope to engage more local authorities, school staff, parents and pupils in taking on the energy efficiency challenge we all face."
The League Table is available on the LessEn website alongside a wealth of additional content. The Knowledge Bank features case studies of energy-efficient buildings and policy papers, and the Blog has video interviews aimed primarily towards the professional audience of building managers, property owners and investors. The website also includes advice and guidance aimed at a broader lay audience, including hints and tips on how to achieve quick wins in energy efficiency, particularly through simple changes in how people use their workplace.

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