Why now is the time for further education colleges to upgrade their lights

With an ever-growing pool of green project funding, it’s becoming easier for colleges to do the maths and invest in some efficient, long-lasting LED luminaires. Further education colleges are the latest to be handed an opportunity in the form of £5 million worth of interest-free loans from the public sector energy-efficiency finance body Salix.

Colleges can apply for loans for lighting upgrades and other energy-efficient improvements, and will only have to pay back their loans once their projects start saving them money.

With the upfront cost taken care of, green funding is a chance for publicly funded institutions to upgrade their lighting to LED and improve their green rating. Some further education colleges are already reaping the benefits; Wakefield College in West Yorkshire used an interest-free Salix loan of £360,000 to install LED lighting upgrades in the college building.

‘The Salix application was straightforward and I found the team very helpful,’ said Shane O’Donnell, energy officer at the college, who oversaw the project. The college is now saving £90,000 a year.

Stafford College (pictured) used a Salix loan of £320,000 to install new lighting and heating. The upgrade saves the college £81,000 a year and has reduced its annual CO2 emissions by 394 tonnes.

Pat Eagle, project manager at the college, said: ‘Our savings from reduced use of energy are very impressive, we have lifetime savings of over £1 million. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the public sector to lead the way in energy conservation.’

Another college that has slashed its bills dramatically with an LED upgrade is Banbury and Bicester in Oxford, where Zeta Specialist Lighting installed LED panels in bespoke sizes in communal areas of the college. The lighting bill is now half of what it used to be, and has also lessened the running cost of the college’s maintenance team. 'We have reduced the burden on the maintenance team as well as benefitted from lower energy bills,' said facilities manager Bridget Richardson.

Long-term savings

Salix estimates that the funding already allocated to further education colleges will help achieve lifetime savings of over £81 million and a reduction in CO2 emissions of 527,873 tonnes. So far the programme has seen £31 million given to projects in 201 further education colleges, 126 of which have undertaken lighting upgrades.

Craig Mellis, technical services manager at Salix, says a total of 430 lighting projects have been carried out at a value of over £8 million. ‘The funding covers many types of energy-efficient lighting upgrades, including both LED and efficient fluorescent lamps. Those colleges with external lighting, for example in car parks, can also utilise the funding to move to more efficient lighting solutions,’ Mellis said.

Colleges who have made use of Salix in the past are now seeing a noticeable difference on their balance sheets. Yorkshire Coast College (pictured) embarked on a Salix-funded lighting upgrade six years ago and has so far saved £68,203 as a result of installing T5 converters for the college’s existing luminaires with the help of a Salix loan.

‘We had made saving energy on-site a priority, especially since the introduction of legislation like the requirement for Display Energy Certificates,' said Geoff Adams, facilities coordinator at the college. 'But the reality was, we had very limited budget to spend on any upgrades,’ 

The installation of T5 converters paid for itself in just over three years and has reduced the college’s CO2 emissions by 612 tonnes so far. ‘We upgraded 95 per cent of our lights and it’s only now that we are starting to see a few of them failing – and I don’t mean many, I’m talking less than 100. It was definitely a good move’ Adams added.

The £5 million recently made available to further education colleges will be awarded in February 2015. Any college can apply, as long as it receives most of its income directly from the public sector.

The application deadline is noon on Friday 30 January 2015. 

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