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Metering out advice

Q As a fairly new business manager, I am keen to reduce how much of my school's budget goes on fuel bills. I need to impress upon staff that turning off lights and powering down PCs can make a difference but I need some hard data to convince them. What's the best way to tackle it and persuade them to think in more 'sustainable' ways?

A This sounds like an ideal project for someone in the business studies, information technology or science department to take on with students. You could see if you could interest one or all of the relevant heads of subject to have students produce something akin to the display energy certificate for each of the rooms in the school where power consumption is the focus. Information about the display energy certificate is available on Teachernet.

In rooms where there are suites of computers it would be interesting to display the effects of having all computers off, all computers on standby and all computers in use. The total power consumption of appliances left on standby rather than turned off could well be an interesting sum in a large school.

A member of the science department with a physics or engineering background could be a key player in deciding what information may be useful and how to obtain it. Calculating the power used by the lights in a room is easy because the power is written on the bulbs themselves. The actual cost of running a light can be calculated from the power of the light, the time it is on and the unit cost of electricity given on the electricity bill.

It is easy to set up the information for each room on a spreadsheet and then look at the impact on total cost of the time for which the lights are in use. Anyone teaching Key Stage 4 physics will be able to explain how to do that.

The power consumption of computers may not be quite as simple. The labels on computers and power supplies that give the relevant information are often hard to decipher. There may be information available on the web or in the user manual. In the final analysis it is possible to measure the consumption directly but that should only be done by a thoroughly qualified person in an appropriate manner given that you are dealing with mains electricity.

If you can involve staff and students in the production and display of the information for each room you will probably get more 'buy-in' to the basic idea of reducing energy consumption.

A useful idea may be to translate possible energy savings into cash equivalents and then into example material benefits. If sufficient actual savings could be recorded in some way there may be some scope for a prize system or the idea of collective savings towards some school resource similar to an appeal raising money for restoration of the local church spire.

If you go down the display certificate line then the involvement of the art department seems logical. It would be relatively simple to involve a significant element of the school community in this and also draw in some community aspects through visiting speakers and local business. In turn, doing so would hopefully give you the group momentum to achieve your overall energy saving objective.

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