Department for Education
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Ed Balls sets out Government action to turn schools green

- First ever zero carbon schools to be built across England -

- Schools get digital ‘energy display meters’ to reduce carbon footprint and cut bills by up to £3,000 a year

Schools Secretary Ed Balls today set out action to help schools join in the fight against climate change, and at the same time save money.

The news comes as the Government accepts the recommendations of the Zero Carbon Task Force (ZCTF), which has today published its report on what needs to be done to cut the carbon footprint of schools across England.

The key recommendations which the Government will look to deliver include:

• at least four pilot zero carbon schools operational in each government region before 2016 to demonstrate how zero carbon can be achieved and to provide learning for future projects

• from 2013 a target of reducing CO2 emissions from new school buildings by around 80 per cent on 2002 building standards – a 20 per cent increase on the Department’s current requirement to reduce emissions by 60 per cent

• introducing measures to ensure that energy and carbon are a priority from the design through to operation of school projects, and that the energy and carbon performance of schools is monitored and published

• a review of achieving carbon savings through a programme of refurbishment and retrofit.

Visiting the eco-friendly Pimlico Academy in London, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said:

“With the schools estate emitting around 9.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – about two per cent of total UK greenhouse gases – for the first time ever we have looked at the ambition of making schools zero carbon.

“We have already made significant steps to cutting carbon use in schools – backed by our unprecedented capital investment. As parents know, their children have a real desire to become the environmental champions of the future and help save the planet for future generations – and we need to harness this interest and do even more.

“The independent experts from the Zero Carbon Task Force tell me that although current technology makes building zero-carbon schools expensive and challenging, we have a clear moral responsibility to future generations to get as close as we can to that aspiration – it would be a dereliction of duty if we didn’t. So we will look to build pilot zero-carbon schools across the country as model examples for others to follow – it will set the bar high for all schools to reach.

“It’s not just about making new buildings green – existing schools can be adapted to make them more efficient. Our £12 million investment programme encouraging schools across England to get a free energy display meter installed will give schools real-time digital information about their energy use and help children learn about climate change.

“Governors and headteachers also need to seize the initiative and not bury their heads in the sand. And so later this year, we will launch an awareness campaign to support them to mobilise the whole of their school from teachers to pupils to parents, and create an energy and climate change aware school culture.”

The schools estate in England contributes around 15 per cent of the country's public sector emission – that’s roughly the same as all the energy and transport emissions of Birmingham and Manchester combined. Energy use in schools buildings accounts for 37 per cent of this – a total of 3.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.

Research by the Carbon Trust shows that smart meters and wider behavioural changes in using energy could see 10 to 15 per cent cuts in fuel bills – meaning the average one-form primary school could save up to £700 a year and the average 900-pupil secondary school more than £3,000 a year on fuel bills alone, potentially releasing millions of pounds across the entire schools system.

Together with the energy display meter programme, later this year the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) will launch a year-long communications campaign designed to help schools reduce their overall energy costs. It will be supported by a broad coalition of public, private and third sector organisation, all of which have a shared interest in reducing energy usage. Practical advice, support and case studies will be made available for school heads, teachers and governors to help embed a wider sustainability agenda for the longer term.

Welcoming the Government’s announcement Robin Nicholson, Chair of the Zero Carbon Task Force, said:

“As the world faces ever greater challenges in tackling climate change, I am confident that this report and the work of the Task Force will be seen as a significant contribution to our national efforts towards a lower energy Britain and that our approach can be adapted to suit other sectors.

“Schools are crucial in achieving lower energy ambitions, not least because of so many students’ enthusiasm for helping to protect the future of the planet. And it is not just the students; it is their families, their homes and their communities that surround the schools.

“Schools can and are doing a great deal to reduce their carbon demands but the delivery of zero carbon schools depends on many outside factors, including the management of ICT, the decarbonisation of the energy supplies and the community distribution of heat and power.

“Achieving low or zero carbon calls for a concerted approach. Our report is intended to point the way forwards for a range of sectors to engage with these challenging issues.”

Tim Byles, Chief Executive of Partnerships for Schools, which is managing delivery of the energy display meter initiative, said:

“Display meters are a great way of tapping into the enthusiasm and interest that young people have in the environment and energy efficiency. In new and refurbished schools where these meters are already in operation, we are seeing energy information actively being used in lessons and positive changes in behaviour that will help reduce the carbon footprint of our schools.

“Pimlico Academy has been designed and built as a sustainable school, and the new Energy Display Meter should help pupils and teachers alike identify even more opportunities to make those small changes which collectively make a big difference. We’re looking forward to making this opportunity available to more schools across the country and in so doing introduce more environmentally sustainable behaviours, both within schools and in the ways young people live their lives beyond the school gates.”

Editor's Notes
This press notice relates to 'England'

1. The Zero Carbon Task Force (ZCTF) final report, including case studies, can be found at

2. The ZCTF was established in early 2008 by Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families, with a remit to advise Government on achieving zero carbon schools.

3. The Government, subject to funding in the next Comprehensive Spending Review, will take forward the recommendations of the Task Force.

4. From today school leaders can register online for a free Energy Display Meter at

Under the scheme, a new electrical sub-meter and data logger will be installed. This meter will be connected to the existing main electrical distribution board in the school switch room, and will measure the school’s electrical power consumption. This information can be relayed to up to five networked PCs, showing data in a user-friendly dashboard format which can be used as a tool for teaching and learning.

5. Pimlico Academy in Westminster , London, achieved BREEAM rating ‘excellent’. Eco-features include solar thermal panels on the roof to heat hot water for the school, hot water from the Pimlico District Heating Undertaking as opposed to having a boiler on site and a heating system that is zoned so unoccupied parts of the building are not heated when not in use, i.e. at evening and weekends.

The school was rebuilt as part of the Government’s Building Schools for the Future programme and rubble from the old school building was re-used on site. The building also features lights which are sensitive to light/movement to reduce energy consumption, efficient ventilation and insulation, and rainwater collection system on from the sports hall roof used to flush toilets.

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