Since 2010, schools have suffered an 8% real-terms cut in funding. Teachers are reported to be doing the cleaning and buying supplies themselves, which means it’s no wonder that school governors are saying they can’t fill places. Some schools are only open 41/2 days a week, saving money that can be the equivalent of a teacher’s salary. So how can renewable technology help the education sector?
In a situation where every little helps, even something as easy as switching to energy efficient lighting can save thousands of pounds over time. At the larger scale, replacing heating systems with renewable technology could save a school significant amounts of money. Some schemes will guarantee enough money in savings and income to pay back any initial investment, and then generate a return for years to come.
What are the funding options?
There are various grants and funding options available to help schools become more energy efficient. For example, the Department of Education funds the Salix Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme (SEELS) for schools. As well, some renewable heating options are eligible for the government’s Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This will pay you a subsidy for 20 years for any heat that your new heating system generates.
Overall, between the combination of loans and RHI, schools could save on their heating costs and get a new source of income without facing any upfront costs.
What renewable technologies are available?
There are three main forms of renewable heating that are eligible for RHI and they can all replace traditional heating systems.
Air source heat pumps – these draw heat from outside air and convert it to heat for use in radiators. They work even when the outside temperature is down to -15C. They need outdoor space for the heat pump itself. They’re potentially easier to install than ground source heat pumps, depending on the space available.
Ground source heat pumps – these draw heat from the ground by means of buried pipes that pass the captured heat to a heat exchanger. Because the temperature underground stays fairly consistent all year round, ground source heat pumps can be used all year. They need clear ground space for the pipes.
Biomass boilers– these replace existing boilers with low carbon boilers that burn wood pellets, wood chips or logs instead of gas or coal. Biomass boilers are carbon neutral because the amount of carbon dioxide released when the wood is burnt is equivalent to that absorbed by the trees when they were growing. The wood used is fast growing and sustainable.
An additional benefit of renewable technology is that it improves a school’s green credentials. That’s something that students are taking more seriously, given that an estimated 15,000 pupils went on strike on 15 February 2019 to protest perceived lack of action about climate change.
 ‘School governors unite in deep concern over cuts and staffing’. The Guardian, 11 March 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/mar/11/school-governors-cuts-staffing. Accessed 13 March 2019.