The Diocese of Truro is introducing a range of measures to meet its commitment to the Church of England’s ambitious plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The diocese is extending a pilot programme to offer church schools the opportunity for energy audits, and has recently secured funding from the Church’s national team to appoint a support officer to help those schools cut their carbon footprints, in order to reach those net zero targets within the next seven years.

This initiative is running alongside strategies to reduce the carbon footprints of churches and clergy homes.

One of the schools which participated in a recent pilot survey found that it could save nearly £3,600 each year just by optimising its energy control system settings for heating, hot water and ventilation.

Schools have also discovered the significant long-term savings that can be made by adopting such simple approaches as installing energy-saving devices on fridges and freezers and switching to low-energy lighting.

“We are very grateful to have had the reports,” says Laura Sabine, Business Manager at St Barnabas Multi Academy Trust, whose thirteen schools were included in the initiative’s pilot programme. “The process was really straightforward for each of the schools. We have engaged with a couple of energy providers to look at energy efficiency options.”

Saving energy, costs and creation

Mawnan School in west Cornwall also took part in the pilot scheme.

“The process was really easy and incredibly professional,” says Jilly Pridmore, headteacher at Mawnan School. “It did help that the person who came in to do it was really knowledgeable and really interested.”

She says that during the audit she asked the surveyor to look at a number of things that had been concerning her about the building and that he’d been very happy to help.

“It’s incredibly important that schools do this,” she adds. “The superficial things we do as a school to save energy – like turning lights out – are just the tip of the iceberg.”

One of the first things their survey turned up was that their control box had been set to give them hot water 24/7. They called an electrician to fix that straight away.

The school has now been awarded additional capital funding from the Department for Education’s decarbonisation grant, and they have even more ambitious plans for longer-term green developments.

“We’ve got a flat roof which would be ideal for solar panels,” Jilly explains. “And we’re also talking about having an electric vehicle charging point put in.”

She is also very pleased that the school has been able to find educational benefits in this process.

“It links in well with our eco-schools work, and we’re going to share some of the findings with the children,” she says.

Local solutions to a global crisis

Education Support Officer at the Diocese of Truro, Helen Petty has been working with church schools to coordinate this process.

“Our schools have been very keen to get in on the full roll-out of this scheme,” she says. “It’s a brilliant opportunity for schools to have these reports funded by the diocese as an indicator of some easy first steps that can be followed to reduce carbon emissions, and also as a pointer to capital projects which can be fully investigated by further in-depth surveys.”

She stresses the importance of such work in meeting the ongoing challenges of the global environmental emergency.

“We’re aiming towards net zero, and any action that can be taken is going to help us reach that goal,” she says. “People have been sunbathing in Cornwall this October. The climate disaster is clearly already upon us.”