Every school site manager must now be facing the prospect of immediate or imminent energy price increases that are quite frankly staggering and potentially budget breaking.
However, it is not all bad news as these price rises will help to provide a greater incentive to not only find and secure the best deals (this is where your energy broker can help greatly) but also provide a far greater incentive to reduce energy consumption and the payback periods for modern, low energy lighting and heating technologies.
Primarily, the major opportunity here is school lighting that has not been converted to LED technology. Simple paybacks prior to the recent price rises were typically in the 3 to 4-year range, however, these are now more likely to be in 1.5 – 2year bracket assuming a simple like for like replacement program.
A typical school budget for lighting energy is now in the region of £40K-£50K meaning that annual energy savings of around £20K to £30K per year! are potentially available. This does not include maintenance savings that can reduce paybacks significantly further.
What are the Pro’s & Con’s?
- Reduced energy cost
- Reduced carbon footprint
- Reduced maintenance & spares cost
- Improved site safety
- Legislation compliance
- Improved aesthetics
- Enhanced learning environment
- Reduced OPEX allowing other energy saving projects to be considered
- Upfront CAPEX required (however, interest free loans now available)
- Potential implementation disruption
Tackling the Con’s first, CAPEX is hard to justify and plainly may just not be available however, this need not be a problem, as the project can be self-financing with finance provided by the installing contractor that is repaid quarterly from the savings being made that even allow for a proportion of the early year energy cost savings to be fed back into your OPEX budget thus making no impact upon CAPEX and a positive one on OPEX from month 1.
Implementation disruption can be largely avoided by carrying out projects outside of normal operating times and or during school holiday periods etc. Generally, the project is segmented to provide an area-by-area upgrade that is manageable to meet the school’s individual requirements.
Summarising the Pro’s, well apart from the obvious energy savings in terms of consumption cost and environmental impact, it is clear to see there is huge justification for proceeding with such projects without delay; the sooner the implementation, the sooner the savings. Past energy consumption can never be recovered.
Apart from energy cost depleting the OPEX budget, an often-overlooked aspect is that of maintenance & spares. How many site managers have to juggle their concerns for site appearance and safety of staff, pupils & visitors? By way of illustration; a typical problem is with Sports and Assembly halls etc. where the ceilings are high making access difficult, time consuming and… expensive!
Imagine the sports hall that is poorly lit with perhaps the emergency lighting compromised by failure, the risk of injury (and potentially litigation) is high should someone be hurt due not being able to see propelled objects clearly or not being able to safely negotiate their way from the building during an emergency.
Many schools/establishments face this dilemma with aging lighting that is no longer fit for purpose that could potentially lead to being held responsible in a court of law and even invalidating insurance claims.
Apart from all of the potential negative stuff, there is some great news in that, with new modern LED lighting comes greatly improved school aesthetics and a far greater learning environment, especially for pupils with impaired sight issues.
Finally, LED lighting comes with long warranties typically 7 – 10 years providing worry and largely maintenance cost-free operation for years to come. An additional benefit is that, due to the relatively low operating hours in schools, the lighting is likely to operate perfectly well for many years beyond this. All this with no fluorescent tubes to replace or dispose of makes for a compelling, environmentally sound expenditure business case.
Other Energy saving Opportunities:
For the most part, heating is the next big saver but, unfortunately, savings and paybacks are much tighter but, boilers, controls and associated heating equipment has to be replaced at or near end of life, nobody wants their school shut down due to boiler breakdown and so, often, this expenditure cannot be avoided. However, if savings from the very efficient lighting project can be ringfenced for such projects then, annual savings of around £20-£25K will go a long way to offsetting these huge infrastructure costs.
Recent very large gas prices have meant that paybacks of around 8 – 10 years (possibly less in some installations) are now feasible and this area is now very much more a practical option for the beleaguered school site manager.
Is it green? The interim and longer-term answer is yes & yes. New boilers are now able to run on hydrogen mixes and the gas grid is due to go 20% hydrogen by the winter of 2023! Effectively lowering your school’s carbon footprint significantly. The eventual plan is for a 100% hydrogen network by 2045.
SOLAR PV/SOLAR THERMAL
Similar to the status on heating above, Solar PV/Thermal is very much a viable project with anticipated paybacks of 5 years, possibly less depending on the school’s installed facilities.
If you would like any further friendly (no obligation) advice with your energy consumption and costs, then I would be only too delighted to hear from you.
Chris Prentice IEng MIET
Tel: 01264 553 159
Mob: 0781 88 44 925