Dozens of new zero carbon schools look likely to be built in the UK as part of a government drive to cut energy use in the education sector. Ministers say they want to move ahead with recommendations from the Zero Carbon Task Force to open 36 pilot schools across England.
Critics say the new schools will be technically challenging – and expensive – given today’s technology but the government says it has a duty to show children currently in our schools system that adults care about climate change. Ministers say we need to take action now and can’t wait for science to catch up.
Zero Carbon Target
The aim is that by 2020, all new school buildings in England will produce zero carbon emissions from their day-to-day use. Ministers say this aim is achievable and once open, the pilot schools will provide a model for others to follow. According to figures available at the end of 2009, schools are responsible for around 2 per cent of all UK greenhouse gases – emitting more than 9million tonnes of C02 every year.
Schools are responsible for around 15 per cent of emissions from the public sector (equal to the energy and transport emissions of Birmingham and Manchester combined). Energy use accounts for almost 40 per cent of that total.
Free Energy Meters
The plan to reduce energy use in all school buildings includes providing every state school (excluding nurseries) with free digital meters to display energy use in real time. It is hoped this will lead to carbon reduction projects it is estimated it could save an average secondary school around £3000 in power every year.
As part of the scheme, a new electrical sub-meter and data logger will be installed. The meter will measure electrical consumption and will relay the results to networked computers.
These will show the data in a user-friendly format which teachers can use a tool for teaching. They will be able to use the figures for interactive projects on climate change and energy use which will also help their school to reduce energy costs.
The government is also planning to introduce targets to reduce C02 emissions from new school buildings by 80 per cent compared with 2002 building standards. Energy use and carbon emissions in all schools will be monitored and the results will be published. Older schools which find it difficult to reduce energy use may be given funding for refurbishments to allow them to meet the new targets. An awareness campaign will also be launched to encourage schools to support carbon and energy cuts.
Schools such as Pimlico Academy in London are being cited as proof that the targets are possible. Rebuilt as part of a Future Schools programme, Pimlico has been fitted with rooftop solar panels to heat hot water and is part of a local heating system so it doesn’t need a boiler on site. Rubble from the previous building was used in construction and the school has been fitted with a rainwater system for toilet flushing and movement sensors for lights. Extra insulation and an efficient ventilation system also help to reduce the amount of power used.