Torfaen pupils switch on to energy saving opportunities
Pupils in primary and secondary schools across Torfaen have been participating in a Carbon Trust programme supported by the Welsh Assembly Government to empower schools to minimise energy use and raise awareness of the importance of carbon reduction amongst young people.
Every school within the Local Authority area was invited to join in the initiative, which kicked off with a workshop and supported by online tool Empower to help participants calculate their energy use and identify the first steps towards increased energy efficiency. The workshop was attended by head teachers, caretakers and Eco-Schools co-ordinators and gave those present the tools to implement improvements at their own facilities.
Young people care very much about the environment and we’re pleased to help equip them with the skills and the knowledge they need to be able to make a difference. As well as helping the schools themselves run more economically, this project serves as a lesson, making pupils responsible for their own energy usage and allowing them to take action and educate others.
Participants were encouraged to start with simple measures such as introducing a traffic light labelling system for light switches and electrical equipment, providing information on what could be switched off at what times. Space and water heating were then addressed, including measuring temperatures of rooms, heating controls, draught-proofing and insulating boiler rooms. Schools were advised on how to make better use of the energy information available to them, such as half hourly data from smart meters.
Once participants had completed the above stages they were supported to investigate ‘invest to save’ measures such as LED lighting, as well as opportunities in renewable energy generation.
A crucial part of the project was to provide practical electronic tools to calculate potential savings and feed that information back to energy teams, helping them build the business case for further investment in schools.
Ysgol Bryn Onnen, a primary school in the village of Varteg, was one of the participants in the project. The school’s head teacher, Ryan Parry, estimates that they are saving around £6,000 a year on energy bills as a result.
Ryan said: “We have a very active Eco-Schools committee and are in the process of applying for our third green flag award, so were very keen to get involved in the project. We started with simple measures, such as labelling sockets so pupils know which pieces of equipment need to be kept on at all times, which can be turned off after use, and which they need to ask permission to switch off.
“Our pupils designed posters which are now displayed next to all of our windows, asking people to take advantage of natural light rather than closing the curtains and switching the lights on. We also reviewed our systems and found that we could turn the radiators down by one degree whilst retaining a comfortable temperature.
“After we’d implemented all of the measures identified by the Eco-Schools team we had a visit from an expert from the Council who conducted a walk-around with the pupils. This highlighted an issue with draughts. We’re looking into resolving this through sealing gaps and replacing a main door and are currently applying for an interest-free loan to help us complete this project.”
Other projects implemented by schools involved in the initiative include fitting timers to water boilers and IT equipment, the ‘Golden Light Bulb’ awards schemes for the class that saves the most energy, monitoring the temperatures in classrooms, and using the school website to update on progress.
Karen Griffiths from the Carbon Trust was running the project in Wales. She said: “We’ve had a fantastic response to the schools project in Torfaen, with many participants seeing significant savings from measures devised by pupils. All participants were given access to Empower for Schools, our interactive online tool, which includes advice and recommendations on all carbon hotspots and the ability to collate and see pledges and responses from staff and students. It also includes step-by-step training guides for carrying out onsite upgrades to lighting, heating and other common equipment with electrical consumption.
“Young people care very much about the environment and we’re pleased to help equip them with the skills and the knowledge they need to be able to make a difference. As well as helping the schools themselves run more economically, this project serves as a lesson, making pupils responsible for their own energy usage and allowing them to take action and educate others.”
Councillor David Daniels, Executive Member with responsibility for sustainability added: “The Council is committed to delivering its services in a more sustainable way. I’m delighted that Torfaen schools have been championing the message that using less energy is good for us and good for the planet. I have been very impressed with the ideas that pupils have suggested for saving energy and hope that moving forward more schools in the borough will learn from this good practice.”