Energy Efficient Behaviour Change in Schools


The project was commissioned to evaluate the effectiveness of recent technology and engagement initiatives for reducing energy consumption within UK schools. Two complementary research phases were designed to help understand the effectiveness of the different initiatives, to learn lessons and to make recommendations for future initiatives.

The first research phase involved qualitative case studies with nine schools, both primary and secondary, located across England, Scotland and Wales. Data were gathered using interviews with parents and staff, together with focus groups with children to gain insights into perceptions of the initiatives, barriers and facilitators to energy reduction, together with children’s levels of energy literacy.

The second research phase involved quantitative data collection and analysis to examine whether there were significant differences in energy consumption and performance between the different groups of schools. Demographic and educational information was gathered on the national sample of schools that had participated in one of the initiatives, this was combined with data on energy consumption, building characteristics and performance. A control group of schools was selected to compare against. Statistical analyses were then conducted to test for differences in energy consumption across the groups. In total, 313 schools were included within the sample.

Key topics: Socio-Technical Systems, Energy Reduction, Schools, Behaviour Change, CSR


  1. To evaluate the effectiveness of energy saving technologies installed with low levels of energy education in schools, versus those with accompanying education strategies.
  2. To examine potential barriers and facilitators to changing end-user energy behaviours in the school environment, focussing on both social and technical aspects.
  3. To explore whether spill-over from school to home energy-related behaviour occurs and to identify barriers and facilitators to children applying energy saving knowledge at home.

Results and Dissemination:

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

The research found that schools using energy-saving technology and an accompanying engagement programme (a socio-technical approach) saved an average of more than approximately £2,161.66 (18459.94 kWh) on average in the 12 months following their technology installations. There was no difference found between the electricity consumption of the technology only, engagement only or control groups.

The research also identified the key role that energy champions (staff in the school that promote and engage others on energy issues) in helping to support behaviour change within schools, inspire those around them and help reduce energy use. Children were also found to share environmental information that they have learnt at school with others in their household and to reinforce environmental messages with teachers and parents.

Dr Davis, Lecturer in Socio-Technical Systems, said: “This research underlined the importance of taking 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.”