Installing a smart meter is the essential first step in making substantial energy savings because it will provide an accurate picture of energy use across your school, says the Carbon Trust. Moreover, new energy management tools are being developed to work alongside smart meters and identify cost savings quickly and easily.
Smart meters provide energy consumption data in near-real time, helping time-poor staff quickly understand where waste is occurring. A new generation of innovative energy management tools is being designed to work with smart meters to help schools visualise energy data, set savings targets and find ways to improve energy efficiency. The tools are being developed by Hoare Lea, Samsung, Transition Bath and Element Energy, with support from an £8.8 million UK government initiative (the Non-Domestic Smart Energy Management Innovation Competition). These developers are also exploring exciting ways to engage, empower and educate pupils so they can help their school become more efficient, while also gaining skills in energy management and data analysis.
One example is Transition Bath’s interactive online platform, Energy Sparks, which has a pupil and teacher homepage that highlights the potential to achieve energy savings. It includes educational activities and an alert system, with optional email or text options to notify users of changes in energy consumption.
Schools that have piloted Energy Sparks have already made significant energy and cost savings. Pupils at Freshford Church School just outside Bath used it to identify an inefficient freezer and asked the headteacher to buy a more efficient replacement. The resulting energy savings saw the capital investment paid back within four months, and the school could save an estimated £7,400 over the ten-year life of the freezer.
When Whiteways Primary School in Sheffield trialled Energy Sparks, staff discovered the school was being heated during non-school hours. This led the school to change (at zero cost) the boiler timings, leading to a 35% reduction in gas costs annually. Meanwhile, school managers at Stanton Drew Primary School near Bristol used Energy Sparks to identify that storage heaters were running over the weekend. By investing £400, which included the installation of a seven-day timer, they reduced electricity consumption, and are predicted to save £800 per year.