Submitted by Salix on Wed, 18/12/2019 - 08:36

Q & A with Janette Ackroyd and Paul Hardman from East Sussex County Council

Janette Ackroyd and Paul Hardman are Energy Efficiency Officers for East Sussex County Council, who opened their Recycling Fund in 2007. 

As of March 2019, this had funded 187 projects, worth over £3 million. These projects have generated impressive total annual savings of £770,000 and an estimated 3,919 tonnes CO2.

The council has delivered a wide range of projects, with technologies including streetlighting, lighting upgrades, insulation and boilers/boiler controls.

Below, Janette and Paul tell us more about their roles at the council and how they are using the Recycling Fund to drive energy efficiency and carbon reduction. 

What is your background in relation to energy efficiency and how did you get into the sector?

Janette: I am passionate about making a difference on environmental issues and climate change. I took a career change 18 years ago into the energy and environment sector, initially running sustainable business programmes for local SMEs to help them reduce energy, waste and water. I hold a Physics degree, Civil Engineer Masters and various professional qualifications including ISO14001 lead auditor and the Energy Institute Advanced Energy Manager.

Paul: I entered the sector through my Renewable Energy degree and have held various energy-related roles since. I am keenly interested in energy and the environment and I am committed to reducing carbon emissions where I can. My role at ESCC allows me to do this in more than just my own way of life.

Could you tell us a bit about your role within your organisation?

The role is very varied as our team covers co-ordination and project management of Salix-funded energy efficiency projects, DECs, Good Housekeeping, metering issues, M&V and general enquiries from clients on energy issues. We draw upon our technical, project management, team working and communications skills. One minute we are working with contractors and a site on an LED upgrade, the next we have to be more strategic. We are currently working with colleagues in environment and maintenance teams on our revised energy strategy and roadmap to achieve Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050.

Could you give a quick overview of East Sussex County Council’s estate, such as number/ type of buildings and energy spend? And how has this changed over the time you’ve been with your organisation?

Our annual energy spend is around £3m. Over the last 8 years we have cut kWh consumption by 15% for gas and 34% for electricity, although charges from market reforms meant electricity costs reduced by just 25%. In Sept 2019, councillors took the decision to switch to a 100% renewable tariff for electricity.

We have 401 buildings, 197 of which are schools. Academy conversions have seen our school portfolio reduce by 21%. Like many local authorities we regularly review our estate and have shed assets as a result in order to reduce our running costs.

How do you identify new projects? 

Predominantly this is via promotion of survey programmes at events and email. At present we are doing LED lighting surveys and installations but previously we had a programme for building fabric insulation. We have found case studies really help schools, as does word of mouth, particularly where we have had time to verify and feedback on the savings impact.

We also get direct referrals from maintenance staff visiting sites who spot areas for improvement and capital programme project managers who are considering refurbishments that have an energy savings element that could benefit from Salix Funding.

How do you procure for consultants and suppliers?

East Sussex has frameworks in place for both consultants and contractors. In addition, for technology-specific programmes such as LED lighting and insulation we have specific contracts in place for surveying and installation of those technologies.

What project have you taken the most pride in?

At our County Hall building, projects delivered in partnership with maintenance and ICT teams have seen our electricity consumption cut by 40% over 4 years and a 20% reduction in gas use. Not bad for a hard-to-heat 1960s office block.

Working with schools is very rewarding. Pretty much all energy efficiency projects improve the building environment as well as making energy and carbon savings. School budgets are tight so being able to show a school that year on year their kWh energy consumption has dropped is very rewarding and the feedback can be fantastic:

“I would just like to say that I have been delighted with the results. Not only has there been a reduction in the energy consumption, but we have uniform lighting throughout the school and the premises staff do not have to spend time changing light tubes.” -  Ian Fines, Bursar, Priory School

What is your biggest challenge to delivering and identifying projects?

Time, there are never enough hours in the day. Having the time to plan ahead and think “what is our next step?” when you are busy delivering the current projects in hand is a huge challenge.

Explaining how Salix works to school leaders and governors is tricky. We use phone follow up in addition to emails. Getting the message across that in the absence of an energy efficiency project schools would continue to spend the amount of their loan repayment to the benefit of their energy supplier rather than making improvements to the learning environment now and reducing maintenance costs in future for the benefit of the school.

In what technologies do you have the most expertise?

Streetlighting, building fabric insulation, LED lighting, boilers and boiler controls. We have made a start with renewables and plan to do more.

You have consistently used the funding available in your Recycling Fund, what key advice would you give to other fund managers wanting to follow in your success? 

Working in partnership with our property maintenance teams is key, as they support project delivery and can identify opportunities via their forward-planned maintenance programmes. Effective teamwork and communication with our contractors is essential. We generally work with local SMEs who are keen to do a good job on time and on budget; they have reputations to maintain within their local communities.

Our energy team also does billing and account management and we have a good reputation with both our schools and corporate clients; they trust us to provide expertise and impartial advice.

What technologies do you see as the big players for hitting the future carbon reduction targets of East Sussex County Council?

Tried and tested technologies such as LED lighting, heating controls and insulation will still be a key part of project delivery. However, the Climate Emergency and drive to decarbonise will see us doing more with renewables and alternatives to traditional heating systems such as heat pumps and/or hydrogen instead of gas.

Thank you, Janette & Paul, for sharing your insights!

If you're interested in finding out more about how to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions at your local authority, please get in touch! 

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