Untapped resources: putting schools at the forefront of green energy technology

Innovation and technology are truly unlocking affordable choices for organisations looking to enhance their green credentials

It’s great to think big when it comes to going green – but are we skipping over the small stuff? Adopting ambitious green policies that make headlines and showcase your organisation’s commitment to the environment can be tempting, and of course it’s great to shout about all the excellent work going on, but doing so can sometimes gloss over the small but effective aspects of ‘going green.’ After all, showcasing your organisation’s switch from tungsten light bulbs to energy saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) may not exactly be headline-worthy, but it is one of the many small changes we can make that have a huge impact on our carbon footprints.

“Indeed, the upcoming COP26 Summit taking place in Glasgow this summer will  contribute to a renewed focus on green policies and sustainability. It’s important that schools are able to keep pace”

In schools, there are endless opportunities for utilising green energy and new technologies that are currently untapped, meaning money and resources are poorly spent where they could be used in more cost-effective, environmentally-friendly ways. As we look toward recovering from the pandemic and focus on the Government’s ‘Build Back Better’ mantra, it’s becoming increasingly important to truly understand our carbon output and subsequent impact on the current climate crisis. Indeed, the upcoming COP26 Summit taking place in Glasgow this summer will  contribute to a renewed focus on green policies and sustainability. It’s important that schools are able to keep pace.

Affordability myths

Sustainable options for many products and services have historically been seen as the more expensive option, which can deter large public sector bodies from investing in them. This is particularly exacerbated when words like ‘technology’ and ‘innovation’ are used, as people associate new tech with extra costs. However, this narrative is often conflated, and organisations are not aware of the long-term cost-savings that can be achieved from an immediate and short-term initial investment. Take our previous example of switching from tungsten light bulbs to CFLs – did you know that CFLs use 75% less energy, produce less heat waste and last eight to 10 times longer? This small switch could save schools huge sums of money, not to mention support their environmental agendas – so how do we encourage more schools to make green switches?

The great news is that we are constantly unlocking new technologies to support organisations to be equipped with the most effective tools for achieving great energy and monetary savings. Not only is there a renewed focus on the environment and sustainability, but the UK government is also keen to ensure we harness innovation and the latest technology to achieve Net Zero. The government’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution includes a huge investment of almost £1bn to reduce carbon emissions from public buildings, including schools. The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme will fund innovative green tools such as low carbon heating systems and energy efficiency measures like insulation and LED lighting to support schools in reaching their targets.

Therefore, the challenge we face is not the availability of technology to support these ambitious goals or a lack of drive to achieve them – it lies in how we make these tools more accessible to public sector bodies such as  schools, and ensure that they are fit for purpose. The breadth of energy products available can often make it a confusing world to enter and can deter organisations from making green switches. Therefore, we must look at ways of reducing barriers and making the energy procurement process as simple as possible.

The importance of procurement frameworks

Creating procurement frameworks is one of the best ways to allow big public sector bodies to access an expansive range of goods and services. Indeed, it’s the most common way of accessing such tools. However, the difficulty is designing frameworks that fit the changing needs of organisations whilst also addressing the unique challenges facing each institution. For example, we know that 60% of the UK’s school estate was built before 1976; therefore, we must understand the unique challenges that older buildings pose.

“Allowing organisations greater flexibility to select the goods and services they need…can empower them to be at the forefront of innovation”

Another factor to consider is the constantly changing world of technology and innovation – how do we ensure schools are at the forefront of adopting new technologies when they become available? Public sector bodies can often encounter more bureaucracy when it comes to making changes, therefore the answer lies in flexibility. Allowing organisations greater flexibility to select the goods and services they need – and to make changes as and when  required through simple and guided procurement processes – can empower them to be at the forefront of innovation.

Personalising green solutions

We know that switching to green energy can save huge amounts of money, but when it comes to public sector bodies like schools, we have a responsibility to be sure that we are putting in place the right solutions for the specific organisation. Energy solutions are not ‘one-size-fits-all’ and we must tailor products and services to ensure we are making the biggest possible cost and energy savings for that specific organisation. Creating procurement frameworks that allow customers greater flexibility and autonomy over selecting goods and services is  key to delivering the best outcomes.

On the road to Net Zero, it’s critical that we place public sector bodies at the forefront of green technology for the benefit of the environment, as well as for the benefit of students and taxpayers. Empowering public sector bodies to make conscious energy switches and subsequent monetary savings will make a significant difference to the way our schools run – so, what are we waiting for? Let us make the switch to a greener future.

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