In September 2020 ReEnergise was approached by the governors of St James School – a local Surrey school which is grant maintained by the Diocese of Guildford. A screenshot of the overhead view of the school estate is shown above, to give a sense of the scale and layout. It is a straightforward site in decarbonisation terms; but like most public sector small schools, it is short on resources and finding reliable project support is a challenge.

There is one main building, served by a single original plant room; additional heating and hot water systems have been added on as the original building has been extended over the past 20 years. In September 2020, the main plant room housed a failing mains gas boiler; but also a pellet biomass fuel store and boiler. There is also a smaller building adjacent to the playground, served by a separate air source heat pump. The biomass plant had not worked reliably for some years. The mains gas plant was ageing and in need of urgent replacement. The Diocese plan was to decommission the biomass plant and use Diocese funding to replace the ageing gas plant and upgrade the heating controls more generally (definitely the most affordable option, but not low-carbon).

The school governors wanted an alternative low-carbon system, whilst also looking at ways to render the estate’s power supply net-zero: in other words, to decarbonise the estate. The school had a very slim budget for this work. It had already had quotes from local installers for the main building heating conversion project, based on stripping out the gas plant and converting the site to a ground source heat pump, using the school playing field for the ground array site. The governors were concerned by the wide disparity in the prices and technical solutions offered and sought our impartial opinion. Accordingly, we undertook a full feasibility study, covering heat and power options and solutions (the school has no integral transport fleet) and providing the governors with a full decarbonisation strategy and plan to cover the journey from the current situation to achieving net-zero in Scope 1 and 2 emissions.

The final comprehensive report, at 42 pages of non jargon explanatory text, with supporting technical and business case charts and graphs, gave the school clarity. It covered: zero-carbon energy strategy; responsible energy procurement, usage, generation; project financing options; design concepts for low-carbon heat and power generation; financial modelling; advice on planning permission, next steps and recommendations.

As a result of the high-grade support provided to the school, the Diocese has now taken us on as their framework net-zero consultancy and we are now embarking on providing heat decarbonisation plans for 41 other schools in the Diocese.