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Climate Ready Schools Guide

Energy efficiency

Actions that conserve or use energy more efficiently can result in cost savings for your school and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Through the Queensland Government's Advancing Clean Energy Schools (ACES) Program more than 800 of Queensland’s 1,240 state schools will be contacted through the program until 2021 to introduce solar and energy efficiency initiatives. Find out more about the ACES Program and how it can support energy efficiency initiatives, such as LED lighting and automated appliance controllers.

Key actions for schools

1.1  Conduct an energy audit

Understanding your energy usage will help you identify areas where you can improve your energy efficiency and reduce your energy costs.

Energy audits assess how, where and when your school uses energy and involve an assessment of:

  • energy bills: including the type of energy tariff and options such as flat rate, time of use or demand tariffs
  • space heating and cooling and how the building design affects this
  • types of appliances and efficiency.

Find an energy auditor or a sustainability assessor

Before engaging an energy auditor or sustainability assessor it is recommended that you check their qualifications.

Read the Energy Efficiency Council overview and its guide to energy auditing, or contact a relevant professional industry association.

1.2  Develop an energy plan

1.3  Understand and monitor energy usage

  • Understand your energy bill. If you’re unsure about the information and charges on your energy bill, contact your energy provider.
  • Install energy meters and monitors.

1.4  Upgrade classroom equipment

  • Install LED lighting. Replace existing fluorescent tubes with LED tubes or fittings. A simple way to compare lighting efficiency is by the lumens per watt. View the CCIQ ecoBiz efficient lighting webinar.
  • Install high efficiency Direct Current (DC) ceiling fans. DC ceiling fans use a high efficiency DC motor, variable speed control and aero-dynamic blades. They use about one quarter of the same energy as a standard fan.

1.5  Upgrade hall lighting

  • Install LED bay lamps. Many older school halls are typically fitted with bay, mercury vapour lamps. Installing LED bay lamps can significantly reduce both energy and peak power use.

1.6  Install automated appliance controllers

  • Installing appliance controllers allows you to switch off appliances when they’re not in use. Movement sensors or timers can be used to control toilet lighting, storerooms, water heaters, kitchen boilers, refrigerators and tuckshop appliances.

1.7  Purchase energy efficient office equipment

  • Choose energy efficient appliances by considering the energy star rating of goods such as fridges, heaters, dishwashers and hot water systems. Find out more about appliance energy ratings.

1.8  Upgrade pool equipment

  • Install a pool motor with a variable speed drive (VSD) to maximise efficiency. The VSD drive allows the motor or pump unit speed to operate at its optimal speed or to vary the speed over the day (this may require specific technical investigation to assess whether this is an effective measure).
  • Install a high efficiency heat pump with a high performance rating (subject to electrical capacity, this may also require an electrical upgrade).
  • If you have roof space adjacent to the pool, you may wish to consider installing solar pool heating. Pool covers and UV resistant pipe insulation are also recommended.

1.9  Energy efficient buildings

There are many factors that determine the consumption of energy for heating and cooling buildings.

New buildings use best practice energy efficient and passive solar building design that reduce the need for heating and cooling systems. The School Environmental Management Plan (SEMP) tool provides schools with resources designed to help manage their impact on the environment.

For existing buildings, there are a range of options that can increase energy efficiency.

  • Paint the exterior surfaces of buildings white or very light colours using insulating paint products (also known as heat reflective paints) and plant trees that provide shade, particularly on the western side of buildings. Install outdoor shade sails to allow airflow while cooling the area.
  • Shade east and west facing windows with adjustable external shades.
  • Install energy efficient window and glass treatments to control solar energy entry and to minimise heat loss or gain via windows. The Australian Glass and Window Association provides information on energy efficiency for windows.
  • Minimise air-conditioning use:
    • choose units with high energy efficiency ratios and maintain condensers (the main outdoor component) and evaporators according to the manufacturer’s requirements
    • use air conditioning in conjunction with high efficiency DC ceiling fans to help circulate cooled air
    • use energy demand management to help reduce peak power demand.

1.10  Install solar Photovoltaic (PV) energy

  • Install grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems.
  • Add batteries to the solar PV system, considering factors such as location, safety and return on investment. Adding batteries allows for:
    • storage of solar power to use at a later date, rather than exporting the excess solar energy
    • some reserve power to be provided in the event of a power outage
    • power to be provided during peak demand periods to help reduce energy costs.
  • The alternating current (AC) coupled system is commonly used for retrofitting batteries to existing solar systems. Planet Ark Power provides information about solar energy systems. Renew offers free advice on solar and battery options.

Case study

Solar panels reduce energy costs at Siena Catholic College

In 2016, Siena Catholic College at Sippy Downs on the Sunshine Coast was looking for a way to reduce energy costs, reduce carbon emissions and provide a more sustainable campus.

The school engaged Planet Ark Power to create a large scale solar system, consisting of 308 solar panels and three inverters.

Since installing the system, the school has achieved the following benefits:

  • significant annual savings in energy costs
  • anticipated generation of 120,000 kWh to mitigate against cost of future energy price rises
  • estimated annual emission savings of 92 tons of carbon, the equivalent of a 500,000 kilometre car journey.

In this guide:

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Water efficiency
  3. Waste reduction
  4. Transport efficiency
  5. Food gardens and local food production
  6. Resilient schools and communities
  7. Climate ready schools checklist

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