UK beefs up interest-free loans for lighting and energy projects at schools

The UK government entity that provides free loans for green projects has broadened its support for schools, offering an all-in-one programme that funds not just the equipment and installation, but also everything from an initial energy evaluation through training students and teachers how best to conserve energy.

The initiative, from Salix, covers a wide scope of energy-related technologies including LED lighting, computer cooling equipment, hand dryers, boiler replacement and insulation.

Salix will spread £2 million across 40 schools in three tranches. It has already selected the first 13 and hopes to select the next two groups after the summer holidays, a Salix spokesperson told Lux.

'We are looking for a wide variety of schools including building type and age, geographical location and a mixture of primary, secondary and special schools to ensure the sample is a strong variety,' the spokesperson said.

The money in this case comes from UK Department for Education. Salix is backed by DfE as well by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.

Salix will require a typical payback period of eight years for the interest-free loans to the schools, although it might lengthen that period in some cases, 'to ensure a school can implement all technologies identified in order bring them down to best practice and make them an exemplary school in terms of energy use,' the spokesperson said.

Salix has funded schools' capital costs previously, but the new programme adds the energy survey and 'human behaviour' training for energy reduction. It also includes 'a document which advises what order to make improvements and to procure against,' and 'a financial model to show how to meet the costs.'

Under the former, less comprehensive funding scheme, Parrs Wood High School, a technology college in Manchester, used Salix to fund £10,600 in lighting upgrades and £63,700 on 'building energy management systems' (BEMS), leading to 45 per cent savings in lighting, and to 20 per cent and 7 per cent savings on gas and electricity related to the BEMS.

Salix had previously lent Parrs Wood £49,120 for an initial lighting upgrade, leading to annual savings of £13,863.

'The Salix zero per cent interest loan was the most cost effective way for us to make long term savings and reduce our carbon footprint,' said Parrs Wood head teacher Andrew Shakos.

Another government entity, the Green Investment Bank, lends money for green projects at commercial interest rates typically allows much longer payback periods. Its streetlighting programme can extend payments to as long as 30 years.

In a controversial move, the government recently said it plans to sell what could be a majority share in GIB.

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Photo is from Salix