Why now?

Although the worst seems to be over, gas and electricity prices remain at all-time highs which is putting school budgets under enormous pressure. Government support to the education sector helped mitigate the impact in the short term but now many schools and trusts are on their own and looking for ways to balance budgets.

Autumn and winter are the periods of highest energy use in schools so the run up to the heating season is the perfect time to review your energy consumption and look at ways to reduce it.

Scope for saving

Data collected by education property consultant Barker shows that there is significant scope for reducing consumption across the school estate. Based on a recent survey, around 60% of the energy consumed at a typical school is when there are no students in the building. This represents a huge opportunity to reduce consumption of both electricity and gas.

At an individual site level, for a typical primary school in 2022–2023 with a utility bill between £80–120,000 a saving of £20–30,000 should be achievable. For a typical secondary school with a utility bill between £300,000–£400,000 a saving of £70–100,000 should be achievable*. Unfortunately, due to rising energy costs, these savings are now just reducing the impact rather than generating net budget savings, but they also come with significant savings in carbon emissions, helping schools and trusts on their journey to Net Zero.

Not all schools are affected equally. The age and construction of your buildings, the energy contract you are signed up to and the steps you may already have taken to reduce energy consumption will all affect the potential savings but there are almost certainly steps that can be taken.

What can be done? Quick wins and housekeeping.

Schools looking for quick, low-cost initiatives to save money should consider the following:

  1. Understand your energy data – getting a thorough understanding of your current consumption costs little but can help with effective procurement, inform target setting, identify opportunities for saving and help engage building occupants to make behavioural changes.
  2. Optimise controls and programmers – ensuring time clocks and controls match operational use. Look at putting new or improved controls on equipment such as sandwich fridges and water heaters.
  3. Temperature settings – review settings on boilers, air conditioning units, local programmers and thermostats and minimise the use of temporary heating where possible. If your school has a Building Management System (BMS) this may be outside the capabilities of site staff and you may need a qualified engineer but this is often money well spent to ensure systems are running efficiently.
  4. IT equipment – ensure all IT equipment is switched off when not in use (not just put in standby mode) and server/hub rooms are not set below 24°C.
  5. Lighting – ensure everything is switched off when not in use. Consider a review of operational hours for sports hall and external lighting.
  6. Commercial/community use – where spaces are let out, review the rates charged to reflect the uplift in energy prices.

Opportunities in the longer term

In our previous article “How can schools and trusts manage the rising price of energy” we looked at longer term solutions and large scale programmes that can drive further savings.

By taking a strategic approach and creating your own Decarbonisation Roadmap you can identify the solutions that offer the best return on investment and quickest payback periods. Aligning this to the various available funding streams helps turn your vision into reality. Many schools and academies are looking at deploying reserves and School Condition Allocation funding towards energy efficiency projects.

What about staff and families?

It is not just our school buildings that are affected. Many staff, students and their families are struggling with the cost of living, especially following the drop in the Energy Price Cap. Here are some ways you can save energy costs this winter:

  • Insulating your home: A quarter of heat is lost through the roof in an uninsulated home. Insulating your roof is an effective way to reduce heat loss and lower energy bills. The typical cost for providing the recommended 270mm of mineral wool insulation to a detached house is £680. This would save around £580 in year 1 and pay for itself multiple times over its life.
  • Heating your home: Upgrading to a more efficient boiler may be desirable but costs money and takes time. In the short term, using your existing heating controls better or upgrading them can provide immediate savings and could cost little to nothing. The Energy Saving Trust has a video on How to use your room and radiator thermostats efficiently.
  • Should you be switching energy supplier? According to Money Saving Expert, those people who took out very high fixed rate deals in 2022 should consider changing, maybe even if there are exit fees to pay. The MSE site also contains energy saving tips on ways to reduce the amount of energy you consume.
  • Longer term: In the longer term you might consider improving the efficiency of your heating and hot water systems and generating renewable power. Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certifies products and installers and using one of their approved contractors is a condition of most government grants for domestic energy saving initiative.

How Lloyds Bank can help

Information, tools and resources to help you manage your money:

  • Money management: Everything from day-to-day budgeting to planning for the future, we have information, tips and tools to support you.
  • How to manage your bills: Some simple steps to help you manage your bills and feel more in control of your payments.
  • Top budgeting tips: Smart ways to take control of your money.
  • Support and wellbeing: Helping you manage your money through life’s journey. Whether it’s key life events, health challenges or money worries.

Next steps

For more tips and advice on saving energy and preparing your school for the new heating season Barker have produced a handy checklist and video.


Barker Associates is a leading education property consultancy working with Lloyds Bank to support the sector in promoting best practice and enabling the journey to Net Zero. The Barker Energy 360 process helps organisations understand their estates, develop a strategy, assess funding opportunities and implement programmes of work to save money and reduce carbon emissions.

Robert Gould, Barker Associates


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