A novel campaign to implement energy saving measures in existing council buildings in order to reduce carbon and energy consumption costs.
Energy saving campaigns are one method by which organisations can raise awareness that can lead to essential professional and domestic behavioural change.
Big Switch Off campaigns have been carried out within Durham County Council since 2012. This campaign is part of a wider set of aims and objectives of the Low Carbon Economy Team who are managing and mitigating the Council’s environmental impact through energy and carbon management of all Council buildings, as well as offering support to regional SME’s and offering educational support to primary and secondary schools.
The campaign took place in DCC’s office buildings and several leisure centres across County Durham, impacting 18,000 staff directly as well as many more thousands of building users indirectly. Making financial savings on unnecessary energy consumption additionally benefits residents across County Durham by reducing the Council’s running costs and enabling greater money to be spent on municipal services.
With a €14 million annual energy bill, a saving of 5-10% by switching off unused lights and computers and reducing out of hour’s gas consumption amounted to a significant financial saving, as well as reducing DCC’s carbon emissions.
A pilot campaign focusing on DCC office buildings whose 2011/12 electricity consumption cost €2,686,620 and generated 14,552 tonnes of CO2, took place in 2012 and achieved 10% energy and carbon savings.

Resources needed

Strategic Officer coordination (staff time) is required, Eg: In a building of 500 staff, the key staff were engaged 4-5 weeks prior; the 'Switch Off Officer' used pro-rata 1 day/week over 3 weeks to analyse energy data (Systemslink) to effectively communicate daily the impact with all staff.

Evidence of success

The project at DCC was gradually rolled out through 15 Big Switch Off campaigns encompassing 26 sites. Cumulatively the project has saved €128,829 and 560 tCO2 but could achieve substantially more through larger financial commitments such as technology retrofitting & refreshed campaigns. After 12 months of monitoring energy consumption within the targeted buildings, a 17% reduction in electricity use has been consistently achieved through the simple low cost intervention of behaviour change

Difficulties encountered

Ownership: too often such projects driven by a small team are treated as an initiative, with previous ‘business as usual’ behaviours returning once the project is perceived to have finished. Cross-organisational ownership is therefore essential for the project’s continued success.

Potential for learning or transfer

Campaigns such as this are easily replicable across a range of public buildings, thus is relevant to public authorities attempting to reduce budgets & CO2. With limited financial resources, a Big Switch Off campaign is an excellent method of raising awareness with stakeholders as well as demonstrating the financial benefit of simple energy efficiency measures. These low-cost measures can finance a greater commitment and investment – through staff employment – that can generate further savings by expanding the scope of energy saving projects. The wider context of sustainability is implicit within the aims and objectives of energy saving campaigns as they achieve financial savings, reduce an organisation’s environmental impact and engage staff and stakeholders professionally, which may in turn lead to changes in behaviour domestically. Regardless of public building type and use, a 5-10% reduction in energy consumption can be expected through these behavioural changes.

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Main institution
Durham County Council
Tees Valley and Durham, United Kingdom
Start Date
March 2012
End Date


Richard Hurst Please login to contact the author.