Speed read: DfE energy-saving tips and £500m funding rules

Colleges told to do energy 'spot checks', and have 2 years to spend cash

Colleges told to do energy 'spot checks', and have 2 years to spend cash

6 Dec 2022, 12:27

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The government is urging colleges to carry out energy “spot checks” for left-on lights and turn the heating off an hour before the building empties.

New guidance on energy efficiency, published today, tells colleges that installing wind turbines can help generate their own electricity. The advice also recommends minimum temperatures however, which the government previously scrapped as statutory regulations.

There are more details too about a £500 million capital funding pot for energy-saving projects in schools and colleges.

Here is what you need to know:

1. Allocations based ESFA on revenue funding

The DfE confirmed today schools will split £442 million and further education colleges £53 million.

It said the average amount each college will receive is £290,000, but actual funding is based on total Education and Skills Funding Agency revenue funding for 2021/22. Allocations therefore range from £10,000 for The Marine Society and Sea Cadets to almost £1.3 million for NCG.

The government wants colleges to “prioritise” projects that make estates more efficient – but adds: “Where you judge this is not appropriate based on local circumstances, you have discretion to spend this on other capital projects.”

Government also expects colleges to spend it “in the financial year 2022 to 2023”, but colleges can spend it over the following two financial years “if necessary”.

2. Leaders should do an ‘energy audit’

The DfE’s guidance says a top action should be an “energy audit” and understanding usage, to best prioritise where to cut consumption.

This could include senior leaders, premises managers or external experts “walking around the site” to consider how to reduce consumption.

Colleges should review heating system’s annual maintenance contracts, ensure and evaluate regular meter readings, and understand energy bill data to budget and compare tariffs more accurately.

3. Turn heating off an hour before close

Colleges “could turn the heating off at 5pm” if the building empties an hour later, “as there will be latent heat within the building and the system itself”. The guidance reads: “You can often switch off the heating slightly earlier than the last usage.”

Leaders can also “consider reducing temperatures in some areas”, with a 1ºC cut wiping up to a tenth off bills.

The DfE says colleges could encourage behavioural change by premises managers, senior leaders or a college “eco club” carrying out “spot checks” – such as whether lights and equipment are off in empty rooms.

They could consider “prompts” like posters to remind staff and learners to switch equipment off, and discuss efficiency in staff meetings, assemblies and lessons. Staff should switch off devices like laptops when not in use.

Cleaners play a “key role” turning off items at the end of the day, with site staff who control heating and hot water settings and catering teams in high-usage kitchens also “key members in your community” affecting usage. Heating controls should match building needs such as class timetables, and CO2 monitors can “help balance” ventilation and warmth.

Colleges should “maximise” daylight to reduce need for lighting, drawing blinds up and regularly cleaning windows. Printing should be “only when necessary”, and running water turned off “when it is not needed”.

4. Cool Britannia – but not too cool

The DfE has issued new recommended minimum temperatures however, despite the energy reduction drive. Temperatures are set to plummet this week.

An internal set point of 20°C is recommended, with minimum temperatures of 15°C in washrooms, circulation areas and any teacher accommodation, 18°C for classrooms and offices, and 21°C for spaces where occupants are inactive or sick.

The recommendations are very similar to the previous statutory temperature requirements introduced by New Labour in 1999, which appear to have been scrapped by the government a decade ago as “unnecessary”.

5. Turbines, laptops and cloud systems

Colleges could consider gettig “expert guidance” on renewables, such as solar panels, solar thermal panels, and wind turbines. But they should “consider if the ongoing maintenance is affordable” for turbines.

Thermostatic radiator valves should be installed, pipes insulated where possible, and swimming pools covered to retain heat.

Meanwhile energy efficiency should be factored into equipment purchasing. For instance, laptops are up to 80 per cent more efficient than desktop computers.

Colleges should also “migrated to cloud-based alternatives” to replace energy-intensive management information systems or file storage.

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One comment

  1. Head in hands emoji

    Surely this is something all organisations already have in place for keeping costs down?

    I can see this triggering the type of behaviour that drives people to rush out and buy air fryers. New items, even if they are slightly more energy efficient, have a replacement cost and carbon cost.

    Whole life energy costs should be central to this – but that would also require Government funding whole life costs and not knee jerk short termism.