Green Business Awards 2008: Best Energy Company - Winner Dalkia

Schools are challenging places to make environmental improvements.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Energy services firm Dalkia developed a sustainable energy supply contract with North Somerset Council for its 82 schools that has successfully shown how key problems can be overcome. Through a range of initiatives, the company has managed to reduce participating schools' energy consumption significantly. North Somerset Council has seen a cost-saving of more than 10%, according to Dalkia, and capital savings have been earmarked for further energy-efficiency improvements. The judges called the contract an excellent, innovative approach for a hard-to-reach and cash-constrained audience.

It's a sobering statistic. According to energy supply and services firm Dalkia, 80% of UK schools have sub-standard assets. Not only does this make buildings energy-inefficient, but schools often lack cash to finance improvements and tend to spend their money on supporting education.

Dalkia signed an innovative energy services and supply contract with North Somerset Council to tackle these issues. The resulting 'performance partnership' covers up to 70 primary and 12 secondary schools for which the council is responsible, as well as a number of council buildings.

This differs from standard energy supply contracts. Instead of paying for each unit of energy provided, the council and participating schools pay a fixed long-term fee for energy, supplied by EDF Energy, plus energy-management services, supplied by Dalkia.

Dalkia and EDF have had performance partnership contracts with commercial customers, but schools represent a different management challenge. Secondary schools across the country now manage their own finances, so the plan had to be sold not only to the council but also to the schools.

Dalkia and EDF gave separate presentations to school heads, governors and business managers to persuade them of the financial and environmental benefits. Schools that join the programme are protected from fluctuations in energy prices and are given a share in any savings achieved.

In participating schools, Dalkia first rolls out a scheme of preventative maintenance. Experience has shown that this reduces breakdowns and the associated cost of maintenance call-outs. Next, more capital-intensive energy-management solutions are implemented - such as boiler replacement, new energy-management controls, the introduction of renewable energy such as solar panels, and improved insulation and lighting.

In surveys, Dalkia identified potential efficiency improvements of 15% in the use of gas and oil for heating and hot water, and of 35% in the use of electricity through lighting improvements. As these efficiencies are realised, savings accrue to the schools as well as Dalkia. The firm expects to yield 15% savings across the school estate. Funds saved are earmarked to be spent on improving the fabric of school buildings at no additional cost to the school's budget.

Dalkia and North Somerset Council are implementing the same 'lean energy' model across a number of council buildings. These include the town hall in Weston-super-Mare, where a lighting-renewal project cut electricity consumption by 60% and saved the council £500,000.

Both partners believe there is enormous scope for wider use of energy service contracts, and Dalkia is playing on its North Somerset experience in marketing them.

The council is also enthusiastic. 'It was so new that people were sceptical,' commented its energy officer Steve Hodges. 'But it worked for us, and other local authorities are starting to show a huge interest in what we've done.'

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