Academies and free schools in the UK are set to gain access to another round of funding from the Salix Energy Efficiency Fund (SEEF), which will provide cash for key energy efficiency upgrades.
The next round of SEEF funding is set to be made available in autumn 2020, with schools gaining access to loans that won’t incur any upfront costs and will only be paid back at a rate based on the estimated energy savings. That means it’s a win-win situation for schools who wish to reduce their carbon footprint.
Electrical contractors can also benefit from the scheme, as they can apply for SEEF funding on behalf of clients. The available cash should also spur more schools to make the necessary upgrades, meaning more work for electrical contractors.
What is covered by SEEF funding?
Academies and free schools can get SEEF funding for over 100 technologies, including building energy management systems, LED lighting, HVAC equipment and renewable energy installations. That means there’s a wealth of opportunity for schools to lower their carbon footprint and energy bills.
Of course, while the UK Government is keen for buildings of all types to lower their impact on the environment, SEEF funding isn’t just about decarbonisation. In fact, a key reason for the fund is to help create a more comfortable learning environment for students and staff. That’s why there are so many technologies covered.
How do academies and free schools repay the funding?
There’s no denying that many educational institutions across the UK are cash-strapped, which is why the Government created the Salix Energy Efficiency Fund in the first place. That’s because one of the advantages of the fund is that it’s cost-neutral for academies and free schools that apply.
While it’s not a straight-up grant, like other schemes, schools will only have to repay the loan based on the estimated energy savings. Of course that means schools won’t see the immediate benefits of installing things like renewable energy generation or LED lighting, but when the loan is paid off, they will eventually realise massive savings on their energy bills.
How can academies and free schools apply for funding?
The next round of SEEF funding won’t be available until autumn 2020, although as with previous rounds, each applicant will only be allowed to submit one application. That doesn’t mean only one upgrade, however, as multiple projects can be submitted as part of that one application. Additionally, Multi-Academy Trusts are allowed to submit one application for each academy within the trust.
Academies and free schools can apply for up to £150,000 worth of funding, with a minimum requirement of £8,000, although typically this cash has to be paid back over eight years. That means some upgrades would be eligible for higher funding than others, as they would net higher savings on energy bills. As a rule of thumb, previous projects approved needed to cost no more than £222 for every tonne of carbon saved.
Electrical contractors are able to assist with the completion of funding applications, meaning the burden is taken away from the academies and free schools. Contractors are also allowed to provide expert advice on what will net the greatest savings and what projects are the highest priority for Salix funding.
Why should academies and free schools consider SEEF funding?
The new round of funding comes at an important time for academies, as the Government now requires them to publicly report under the Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) framework. This requires academies to showcase what steps they are taking to reduce their carbon footprint and energy use, although it doesn’t physically require academies to take any action to physically reduce either of these. They just need to be public about what they’re doing.
Despite the fact that there’s nothing forcing academies to reduce their carbon footprint, the benefits of projects completed under SEEF funding should certainly speak for themselves. After all, creating a better learning environment for students and staff should be of utmost importance to all schools.
As Gareth Barber, managing director of BG Energy Solutions Ltd, noted, “Academies are under increasing pressure to reduce their energy use and carbon footprint, particularly with the recent introduction of mandatory Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting. The SEEF fund is a low risk, cost-neutral way of funding energy efficiency upgrades – and in doing so academies have the chance to create a more comfortable learning and working environment through better building technology.”