Insight 13 February 2023

Practical actions your Multi-Academy Trust can take to reduce energy costs

With schools and Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) facing increased costs for teachers and support staff, catering, maintenance and energy, they are facing unprecedented pressures on their budgets.

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the cost of running a school in 22/23 was predicted to increase by 6%. At one point, for energy alone, electricity bills were estimated to increase by 61% and gas by around 150% – 200% for many schools. The reality may well be more.

Headteachers and Trustees must make difficult choices about where to invest existing budgets now, and where effective savings can be made for the future. Some costs are more difficult to cut without impacting pupil outcomes and wellbeing. However, energy consumption is one area where MATs can, with the appropriate professional support, introduce efficiencies and contribute to their net zero carbon targets.

In this article, Mark Dolling, Mitie’s Business Development Director for education and local government, shares his thoughts on the actions MATs can take to cut their energy costs.

School building with solar panel on roof
We combine specialist smart technology and energy efficiency expertise to help customers manage their education estates

Reduce energy use by making the most of what you have

The hikes in energy prices have sharpened the focus on making buildings and education estates more energy efficient and sustainable. However, before you think about replacing heating systems, or finding renewable energy sources, the first, and arguably the most important step, is to optimise the performance of what you already have.

Understanding how your buildings perform, how they are used by staff and pupils, and how systems can be improved, is key to making the most of what you have. At Mitie, we combine specialist FM services with smart technology and energy efficiency expertise to help customers manage their education estates.

Effective facilities management, optimising the operation of existing systems and making affordable changes, can all have a big impact on lowering running costs and reducing carbon consumption. Not only that, but by knowing where the gaps are in operational performance, you can make sure that any future capital investment is properly targeted and will have an impact.

Optimising heating and building management systems

Heating and building management systems (BMS) can be complex and may need reprogramming to keep them running at peak performance. A well-integrated BMS can deliver significant savings by making sure your school estate runs efficiently. It’s worth getting a specialist, like Mitie, to make sure that your BMS is properly programmed and balanced.

Remote monitoring of building systems

Planned and preventative maintenance, aided by specialist remote monitoring, can make sure that issues are dealt with before they become a problem for your staff and pupils. Remote monitoring can spot issues early and alert Maintenance Engineers for a site visit if a remote fix is not possible.

Looking at your school’s energy consumption through the night, at weekends and through the school holidays is another way to reduce your energy bills. Are lights, computers, monitors and other equipment, left on to quietly consume energy? Studies show that many schools leave up to 30% of lights on unnecessarily, which could add 12% to their electricity bill.

Are empty rooms heated unnecessarily? Remote monitoring of your building systems can provide you with a complete picture of what is contributing to your energy bills.

With a clearer picture, you can use the information to change behaviours in your MAT, remotely tweak systems and significantly reduce unnecessary energy consumption.

A properly planned and regular servicing regime also helps ensure that buildings are operating at optimum efficiency. It can also provide reassurance that your estates are fully statutorily compliant.

“As a trustee of a growing MAT, I want to know that we are doing everything we can to optimise the efficiency of our school buildings and that we are targeting valuable capital resources effectively. I also want to make sure that our Senior Leadership Team can access data at the press of a button to check that our schools are statutorily compliant.”

Mark Dolling

Quick wins to reduce your MAT’s energy costs

  • It pays to be clear about your energy bills. Check that your MAT is on the right tariff for its energy bills across the whole estate and that the actual usage is correct. If you need advice, Mitie’s Energy Bureau service can review your billing information to make sure that your energy payments are in line with your usage.
  • Look at your big energy consumers, such as catering and IT equipment; is it possible to reduce their energy usage? New IT hardware can be 50% more efficient than equipment that’s 4 or 5 years old. When it’s time for an upgrade make sure it’s to the most energy efficient models. And consider laptops as they are more energy efficient than desktop computers.
  • Turning down heating by 1 degree could save 5-10% on heating bills. Don’t waste the savings by letting precious heat escape through draughty doors and windows. Encourage staff not to leave outside doors propped open.
  • Switch off systems and equipment, such as computers and electronic displays, lighting and heating, when not in use.
  • Simple things are often overlooked – pull back blinds and keep windows clean to maximise solar gain in winter months. Also, ensure that furniture is moved away from radiators so that warm air can circulate properly.
  • Replace lighting with energy efficient LED fittings.
  • Install solar panels on school buildings and generate your own clean, green energy.
Essex County Council school solar project
Our specialist team installed solar panels on the roofs, upgraded lighting to LEDs and remotely monitored performance and maintenance needs

Plan for better energy efficiency

When it comes to your net zero carbon journey start with a full assessment of your buildings’ carbon consumption as a baseline. Optimise what you have and use the data and insight gained to inform your investment in the things that will have the most positive impact.

In 2021, Mitie supported 12 Essex schools in their journey to net zero carbon. As part of the delivery, our specialist team installed solar panels on the roofs, upgraded lighting to LEDs and remotely monitored performance and maintenance needs. As a result, the schools generate their own power, have saved over £400k on their annual energy bills, and reduced their carbon consumption.

“Plan to invest once, invest wisely and invest in the right order. Rushing to decarbonise heating systems without taking a ‘fabric first’ approach to energy efficiency, and maximising the opportunity to install solar energy, will generally see energy costs increase, as electricity is significantly more expensive than gas currently.”

Mark Dolling

Make your school or MAT a community catalyst for energy transition to net zero carbon

Young people and their parents are increasingly passionate, and in some cases anxious, about climate change. Your MAT’s journey towards net zero carbon is a great opportunity to show them, and the wider community, how their schools are proactively working to be part of the solution.

Handled in the right way, engaging staff and pupils in discussions around energy consumption can have a positive impact on attitudes towards energy usage. It can change behaviours, not just at school but also at home, to the benefit of the wider community. Educating and engaging pupils in the changes their school is making can help reduce anxieties around the topic. Mitie has supported several of our clients’ schools to involve their pupils as part of the curriculum.

How Mitie’s specialist teams can help your MAT reduce energy consumption and costs

As the UK’s largest FM provider, we support customers across the private and public sectors. Our specialist energy, projects and maintenance teams deliver services to schools, MATs, colleges and universities. We support you in optimising the efficiency of your estates and buildings, lowering energy consumption and planning your journey to net zero carbon.

We work with more than 200 schools across the UK and offer bespoke services to support MATs and local authority school estates. Our specialist teams help you streamline your operations, save you money and make sure that your buildings are safe and compliant.

Mark Dolling, Mitie Business Development Director, Education & Local Authorities

Mark Dolling is Business Development Director for education and local government at Mitie, and has 30 years’ experience in the education sector. As a trustee of a fast-growing Multi-Academy Trust, Mark has first hand knowledge of the current challenges they face. As part of Mitie’s specialist team delivering FM services to the education sector, he is well-placed to help MATs find the most energy efficient solutions to reduce energy consumption and cut costs.

Contact [email protected]

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