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Schools have a responsibility to demonstrate a proactive approach to reducing energy use and tackling climate change.

The publication of the UN IPCC report in August, and the United Nations Secretary General’s comment that it signalled “a code red for humanity”, coupled with the landmark United Nations COP26 conference in Glasgow, has sharpened the focus on the Net Zero debate. But, armed with a wish list of energy efficiency measures, compounded by budget pressures, where do you start to holistically transform your school buildings to create a space conducive to learning that limits its environmental impact and meets ambitious energy and carbon saving targets?

This is one of the topics delegates discussed in a Round Table hosted by Zenergi at the ISBL’s National Conference.

The legacy of old buildings limits energy efficiency

For many school business managers the legacy of an old building and old infrastructure is significantly impacting energy efficiency. Many of today’s school buildings were originally constructed in the 1950s when energy efficiency was not a major consideration. Despite this, the challenges can be overcome. We all face a different roadmap in the journey to Net Zero, the key is developing a plan that works for each individual organisation.

Data is king

Half-hourly meters can bring a huge amount of value but some question the justification behind the cost, while others recognise that these are only as good as the person looking at the data. Data analysis and interpretation, therefore, becomes another hat school business managers will need to wear. Customer portals, such as Zenergi’s PEPI, can help with easier interpretation of usage data, highlighting trends and unusual consumption that can be investigated further, such as during the evening or school holidays – what is being powered unnecessarily? Education is key and it can be powerful to show the cost and consumption trends, especially in assemblies, while publishing the data can make a real difference to engaging stakeholders in improving a school’s performance.

Decarbonisation remains a challenge

Decarbonisation must be the buzz word of 2021, but many schools agree that, while they know they need to embrace decarbonisation, moving away from gas fired central heating remains a challenge. It was recognised that having a plan in place now so that schools are ready to apply for funding when/if further rounds of Salix funding opens is critical and also helps to springboard further cost-effective investigations to sites, such as energy audits; renewable energy feasibility studies; or EV charging reviews.

Embracing technology

The revenue generation opportunities that Electric Vehicle (EV) charging can offer is becoming a growing interest as more schools are considering implementing this technology. Others are considering LED lighting upgrades, while solar PV offers an opportunity to be funded via a PPA, a little-known funding mechanism that is growing in popularity and an option Zenergi can help with.

Alternative options: Battery storage

Battery storage was discussed in conjunction with EV and Solar PV as a possible option while recognising that it is still in its infancy.

Biomass was identified as a high maintenance option for heating a school, requiring a fair level of cleaning/monitoring by site staff, along with locally sourced good quality low moisture content wood to offer a fully effective solution.

Alternative solutions: District heating systems

District heating was discussed as a solution, but having historically been LA-led, and aimed at schools in urban locations, many school business managers were left in the dark about options for a District heating scheme. SFA funding was seen as a possible route to converting to this form of heating.

Alternative solutions: Hydrogen

The table was divided on hydrogen as a solution to the climate and energy crisis, with many firmly believing in the electrification of the heating system, and not converting to hydrogen as a replacement for gas.


In summary, schools face significant challenges in demonstrating a proactive approach to reducing energy use and tackling climate change. However, as COP26 demonstrated, we all have a responsibility to act now. Energy education will be a part of the curriculum in 2023 when all children will be taught about the importance of conserving and protecting our planet; they will want to know what measures their school is taking. Educators can get a head start with resources such as Zenergi’s free Climate Crisis game. Meanwhile, school leaders need to consider the types of technology and infrastructure to invest in to maximise their limited resources while future proofing their buildings. They will need to select trusted partners that can help them make those decisions and plot their Net Zero roadmap.

Zenergi is here to help with all the solutions discussed in this article, contact us at | 023 8028 6300   

25 Nov 2021

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