Schools are in many ways important in promoting energy efficiency and energy conservation. Schools make up a large share of the public building stock. Opportunities for energy efficiency and energy conservation relate to lighting, heating and cooling, computers and appliances. More importantly, schools are where the youngest generation of current energy end-users are educated. Schools are also an important ‘window’ into families and communities. Children and young people represent the youngest energy consumers; the school building is their workplace, so the patterns that they learn in school have an influence on working life. They are in the process of developing energy usage habits. Schoolchildren and young people can have a significant impact on energy use in their family and in wider surroundings. Finally, schools can have a wider educational impact on the entire community. However, there are challenges to energy change in schools:
- Since school buildings are usually publicly owned, planned investments suffer from tight public budgets (large indebtedness) that do not allow for major investments in energy savings measures.
- Different investment options often conflict, e.g. between financing energy savings measures (e.g. refurbishment of public schools) and the cultural or social sector. Attention is often diverted to other, more pressing concerns than energy savings.
- Municipalities and/or schools may lack trained staff or energy/facility managers with specific budget available.
- Lack of knowledge among teachers and social workers how to educate about and make use of energy savings potentials.
The following following types of energy change projects can tap the potential of schools:
- School building energy management and energy renovation programmes focusing on the school building, facility managers and operating staff. School buildings can be an interesting target for performance contracting and ESCOs.
- School energy audits and metering schemes: Schools are increasingly audited and metered by professionals. Some schools also include energy audits into schoolwork done by pupils, which provides a way for students to learn about the impacts of energy-related behaviour.
- Active learning: Energy-related projects, at school or at home, can be part of an active learning curriculum. This means that children can be important resources in their own education rather than passive receivers of information
- Energy issues in the curriculum
- Targeted awareness and behaviour change campaigns: The projects include campaigns focusing · on particular issues in schools, such as lighting and climate pledges
- Schools, pupils and students as ‘energy envoys’: A number of projects focus on the role of schools and students as central points in raising awareness in the wider community.