Implement energy saving learning and behaviour change with schools. The overall objective of the project is to reduce carbon emissions and costs in schools
Coordinated by DCC for all schools within the municipality that buy into DCC’s energy service level agreement (SLA). The programme began in 2010 & provided an unprecedented coordinated strategic approach to improving energy use and energy efficiency in primary and secondary schools. It enables schools to access their gas, electricity and water data through an online portal called ‘Systemslink’. Additionally, schools receive billing and technical support from the centrally based corporate Low Carbon team, and in-school support from a team of educational specialists who provide educational sessions for pupils & teaching staff as well as working with school caretakers and business managers to look at financial saving opportunities. Prior to the project starting, school energy use was increasing and accounted for over 54% of the carbon emissions for DCC owned buildings, costing the schools over €7 million a year. Due to the large number of schools within the municipality, a pilot scheme was initially launched which involved 60 schools while expectations, project objectives and technical support were established. In the 16/17 academic year, the programme involves 241 schools. To date, the programme has achieved significant reductions in electricity and gas consumption, and their associated carbon emissions. Due to the cost of electricity rising significantly since 2010, energy consumption reductions also offer financial resilience against further price increases.

Resources needed

Essential – coordinated staff expertise on energy management and school engagement. Durham scheme costs approx €115,000 per annum for 240 schools. Desirable – energy management software to monitor & analyse real-time utility consumption.

Evidence of success

The programme continues to be a success quantitatively & qualitatively.
Since inception 13,000 tCO2 have been saved, equating to €3.05 million based upon business as usual predictions. This has presented an additional income stream which enables continued investment into wider carbon reduction projects. The programme has added value to school curriculum & has led to further engagement opportunities with parents & wider communities, thus providing a wider context of sustainability.

Difficulties encountered

Schools require a flexible approach & the programme must be kept topical and relevant. Access to good quality energy data is invaluable for demonstrating the impact of the project. Communicating with a large number of schools & being aware of staff changes is difficult.

Potential for learning or transfer

The transferability of this programme falls into four major categories with each having its own set of aspects to consider: planning, implementing, monitoring and capacity building. Planning – forming a partnership between the municipality & schools, choosing priorities, establishing criteria, setting up a utility database. Implementing – adaptability (the programme must be aware of each school’s context), good solutions (partnership with private enterprises), behaviour change, management structure and monitoring. Capacity building – the educational work with pupils and teachers is fundamental to the long-term capacity building and awareness raising of energy and wider climate change issues. Although not a direct focus of the project we know that pupils and teachers take their enhanced knowledge into their homes and communities where further behaviour change takes place, hence domestic energy reduction also.

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Main institution
Durham County Council
Tees Valley and Durham, United Kingdom
Start Date
March 2010
End Date


Richard Hurst Please login to contact the author.