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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Roe

How we have reduced school energy costs

On 5th September I shared Thrive’s financial position with staff. At the time the press was full of stories about the squeeze on school budgets, and some staff were understandably asking questions about our position. I was pleased to share with them that our financial position was challenging, but secure, we had no need to consider staffing reduction - and that is still the case. I also asked them for their help to reduce our CO2 footprint, and to reduce our energy costs by 10% this financial year.

Today Stuart Carrington (CFO) shared a very encouraging update report with the Development Team.

Comparing gas and electricity usage in the Autumn Term 2022 with the Autumn Term 2023 we are already hitting our 10% reduction target. This represents a CO2 reduction of around 10mt3 and we estimate we are on track to make an annual cost saving to Thrive of >£100,000. That’s a fantastic result. Added to this we are spending the majority of our energy efficiency grant from the DfE (£200k) on switching to more energy efficient LED lighting across the Thrive. This alone should yield a >20% reduction in lighting costs, with all the associated CO2 reduction benefits.

To help us capture the benefits of these improvements, and to continue to drive forward our journey to being a net zero school trust, we are partnering with C3 Group led by ex-Kelvin Hall pupil Ash Wray. Ash will help us to plan a school-by-school decarbonisation programme. This will sit alongside the work Paul Browning is leading on in schools as we participate in the Eco Schools Programme and involve pupils in being part of our decarbonisation dreams, and helping us to fulfill our ambition of enabling pupils to develop a sense of co-operative agency in approaching the huge challenges the planet faces.

The next step will be for each school to have real-time energy use monitors available in each school so that staff and pupils can see how much we are using, and the effect of all our co-operative efforts to reduce usage. But for now, we will have to make do with these charts!

You can see the overarching reduction picture. It’s a fantastic result. And having this analysis has obviously led to further investment in smart metering in different zones at Sidmouth Primary, and a deeper analysis of the Priory Primary gas and electricity usage to untangle our usage from that of other organisations that share the site.

So what has made the difference?

  • School leaders have been very vigilant about the temperature of classrooms.

  • We have fitted individual thermostat valves on grade 2 listed radiators (more to do on this).

  • Colleagues have been active in switching off tech and lighting when it's not in use.

  • Timed switch down of site tech, and economy 7 timed recharge of portable devices (again more to do here).

  • Pupils are increasingly alert to their own behaviours in switching kit off.

We have made a great start - there is still much to do. As well as reducing usage we are looking into energy generation on-site as well. More on this in the near future. For now, thank you to everyone who has played their small part in a much bigger programme of improvements. As you can see, thousands of small decisions are making a huge impact - impacts that are better for the planet, and better for Thrive’s financial stability.


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