Energy efficient behaviour in schools

Schools could cut thousands of pounds from their electricity bills each year by installing energy-efficient technology and championing a change in the behaviour of staff and pupils.

Research by Leeds University Business School and funded by British Gas into the effectiveness of the company’s energy saving programmes found that schools using energy-saving technology and an accompanying engagement programme saved an average of £2,100 in electricity costs annually.

A team from the Business School’s Socio-Technical Centre (STC) compared the effectiveness of different British Gas energy saving programmes by comparing the energy consumption of schools taking part in the programme to those that hadn’t participated (313 schools in total).

The researchers looked at nine case study schools to understand more about how technologies were being used and how children learned about energy issues. The researchers also spoke to staff and parents and engaged directly with 130 pupils via focus groups.

The Energy Makeover programme, which involved the installation of energy-saving technology combined with an engagement programme for staff and students, helped schools to achieve considerable savings on their energy costs. This was more effective than programmes providing only technologies or engagement activities on their own.

The research was carried out by Dr Matthew Davis, Lauren Machon, Professor Kerrie Unsworth and Dr Mark Robinson. Dr Davis, Lecturer in Socio-Technical Systems, said: “This research underlined the importance of taking a socio-technical approach to this issue - where technology is combined with an understanding of human behaviour.

“The research highlights the need to think beyond just technology as the solution to reducing energy use. More efficient technologies have a huge role to play, but they are likely to be much more successful in practice if we understand how people will use these in the real world and ensure that they have the knowledge to get the most out of them.

“Children have an important role to play in helping to educate and inform their parents and wider family about how to save energy. They are also well placed to drive changes in their teachers’ energy behaviours at school.”

Bryan Halliday, Director of Reputation and Corporate Citizenship at British Gas said: “We commissioned the study with Leeds University to gain a stronger understanding of how our schools programme impacts energy saving behaviours.

“The research clearly highlights the positive effect that energy education and engagement in the classroom can have on the pupils, both whilst they are in school and when they are at home. The insight from the research will be used to inform the direction our schools programme will take in the future.”

The Socio-Technical Centre is part of Leeds University Business School, and undertakes research to create processes and environments that are a result of marrying an understanding of human behaviour with technical expertise. The STC has worked with blue chip companies including Rolls-Royce, Arup and British Gas.

Dr Davis is available for interview.

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