Empowering Schools

Solar PV • Feasibility study • Completed December 2021


Power Up North London wanted to look at ways to decarbonise school buildings by engaging staff and students.  We partnered with a local engineer, Isabel Why from Model Environments, to collect data and undertake the analysis of energy use in three schools: Kentish Town Primary School, Brecknock Primary School and Torriano Primary School.  Isabel engaged a group of students at UCL to carry out the energy modelling. Following the reviews, we submitted recommendations for decarbonising these schools. Each report provided a route map to nearly net zero accompanied by a series of simple fixes for maximum initial impact.

Funding & delivery

This feasibility study was funded by the London Community Energy Fund 4.  PUNL worked with Model Environments Limited (MEL) to deliver this work.  MEL conducted site visits, collected energy use data and ran the technical analysis.  They looked at gas and electricity consumption over a recent 12- month period and compared it with the CIBSE and ASHRAE benchmarks for school buildings.  Issues of high energy consumption, poor insulation and ventilation were identified.  They also carried out workshops with school children.

Broadly, the following scenarios were modelled and the recommendations split into low/no cost, medium cost and high cost. For example the kind of steps identified included:

i) No-cost:    switching off lights and computers when rooms not in use and/or reducing the holiday/weekend baseload to 20% of its current value and/or reducing the heating schedule by 2 hours, 1 at each end of the day 

ii) No-cost + LED lighting

iii) No-cost + LEDs + insulation 

iv) Replacing the gas boiler with an air source heat pump

Benefits & impact

The findings showed that between 17% and 20% of carbon reduction could be achieved through no-cost or very low cost solutions provided the behavioural changes recommended for each school could be incorporated into day-to-day school life. We ran a competition between the schools to see what the children could achieve when empowered to reduce energy. One school achieved 30% reduction in energy use in comparison to the previous year through behaviour change.

The medium-cost and high-cost recommendations would require a more detailed retrofit plan to improve building fabric efficiency and potential measures included the introduction of low-energy lighting and sensors, solar PV where this was not already in place, and finally, replacing gas boilers with heat pumps.  

These findings give us cause for optimism in supporting schools to materially improve their energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and save costs working in partnership with their students and staff.  PUNL is keen to replicate these findings across other schools and to find ways to support schools in delivering against these opportunities.