Managing the electricity bills

I was talking to colleagues in the Local Government team the other day, and they were telling me how the focus within local authorities has moved to "cost-saving" as a priority within their decision making. This is partly caused by the need to fill the budget gaps created by the downfall of Icelandic banks.

Although the Icelandic issue hasn't really affected schools (yet), the issue that is being talked about by the people that manage school budgets is the size of energy bills. My daughter came home from school last week, having been given the new job of “Radiator Monitor” – turning off the classroom radiators before going out to break, and making sure the radiators are turned down instead of opening a window*

What has the size of energy bills go to do with you?

imageTake a look at this chart – it shows that the average number of computers in both primary and secondary schools has almost doubled since 2002 - up from 25 to 50 in primary schools, and from 173 to 317 in secondary schools – which gives a combined total of just over 2 million computers – an increase of 1 million!

And at an average of 150 watts, assuming they’re switched on for 40 hours for 40 weeks, that’s an increase of about 240,000,000 KWh – or about £24m at 10p/KWh.

For a secondary school, an increase of 100 computers equals about £2,500 a year more on your electricity bill.

You’ve probably seen the EnergyStar labels on some of your equipment – it’s an environmental standard from the US Environmental Protection Agency – which not only defines how the equipment operates but also how it should be configured. For example, it specifies that:

  • Computers must enter system standby or hibernate after 30 to 60 minutes of inactivity.

  • Monitors must enter sleep mode after 5 to 20 minutes of inactivity.

One of my colleagues from the US has written an article which is a simple summary of what you can do to ensure your IT reduces it’s energy usage – and although it was written to ensure that you can comply with EnergyStar, the commonsense advice applies to us too. Ignore the snappy title “Sustainable Computing Power Management Settings for Compliance and a Reduced Footprint”, and skip to the content – it explains how you can use Group Policies to maximise energy saving.

Have a look, and then go and find the bursar and tell them how much you can save them – you may become their new best friend!


image * Makes it sound like a Soviet-era economy doesn’t it – after hearing the “Radiator Monitor” story, I wondered whether there’s one massive thermostat somewhere in the DCSF offices – set to a steady 24o C - that controls the temperature of the radiators in every classroom in the country. And so in every school up and down the country the classroom temperature is regulated by opening and closing windows!

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