Pennie Varvarides finds out how a Salix loan helped one English council improve the efficiency of its lighting – without incurring huge upfront costs

Over the past three years, West Sussex County Council has tasked its carbon management team with cutting CO2 emissions by 10 per cent a year – and to do so on a budget.

Lighting, alongside boiler controls and insulation, has played a key role in bringing down energy use at the council’s buildings.

The new lighting at the County Hall in Chichester is an example of how energy bills can be reduced without incurring prohibitive upfront costs. County Hall was built in 1936 and is a high profile site in the heart of the city – the main administrative site for the local authority.

There are about 1,400 staff at the site, which includes the Grade 1 listed Edes House, built in 1696, which served as the main council office until the present building was built.
With the help of a loan from energy-efficiency investment body Salix, the council upgraded its lighting and cut energy usage by 40 per cent.

All the building’s old fluorescent tubes were replaced with energy-efficient equivalents and Energys Group’s Save It Easy retrofit converter. The carbon management team, led by Nicola Winser, opted for a retrofit converter rather than a full-scale retrofit because of the waste that would have been involved in ripping out the entire existing scheme to make way for new fittings. Winser says: ‘It’s not very sustainable to throw things away that work – and some of our fittings are only a couple of years old.’

Weighing up the options

The team wanted a design that would make it possible to slot the new energy-efficient lamps into the existing fittings. After researching the possibilities and weighing up their options, the team settled on Save It Easy.

The first trial of the product was carried out in the Portakabin where Winser was working at the time, followed by trials in boiler rooms and store cupboards – places where there were no people.

Initially the engineers were difficult to convince, but the success of the trials brought them round.

There was another reason for the trials beyond ensuring the converters would do the trick. It was essential that the project met Salix’s requirements for government-backed funding.

One of those requirements is that the installation should have a payback period of less than five years, which was easy to achieve across the council’s entire estate – some buildings could achieve payback within two years.

With funds secured, 1,016 old lamps were replaced with low-energy T5 equivalents running from Save It Easy converters. As a result, annual energy consumption has been cut by 133,179kWh – 40 per cent – and energy bills have fallen by £6,266 a year.

Back to school

West Sussex has also offered local schools interest-free loans to upgrade their lighting, reducing the upfront costs they will have to bear.

The council is also preventing the emission of 29 tonnes of CO2 a year as a result of the lighting upgrade at its headquarters. As the carbon management team rolls out the changes across the council’s building stock, further savings will be made. Winser says: ‘Last year, we were able to exceed our carbon reduction target, cutting emissions by 10.5 per cent, and we’re on track to do the same again this year.’

Winser and her team are also encouraging council staff to be responsible with energy, with reminders and pushes towards turning lights off at the end of the day. They plan to install control systems where viable, but it works out much faster to work on one change at a time. Currently the council has lighting controls at one of its main car parks, which operates 24/7, and a few of its other buildings.

The improvements made mean that West Sussex is making savings every year that can then be reinvested in further upgrades. In this way, the investment made with the help of Salix funding should keep paying back for some time.

T5s reach new heights

The latest high output fluorescent tubes – and control gear – save £67,000 a year for Premier Decorations

Trading Places

Solid state sources have displaced T5 lamps in the world’s biggest LED office lighting installation in the City of London. But the rationale was not energy saving. Jill Entwistle reports