Part 5 – Why you need Strategic Partners as well as a Strategic Approach

What are the Practical Steps Schools & Academy Trusts can take to reduce Carbon emissions and move towards a NetZero future?

This is the fifth part in a series of blogs, where we aim to answer this question by examining a different aspect of NetZero/de-carbonisation each week and hopefully we will provide some contextualised practical information and guidance for Schools and Trusts. In last week’s blog, we looked at why it’s essential to have a Strategic approach to deliver long term NetZero success and so this week we are looking at why you also need specialist support to also achieve success.

For this week’s blog, I am going to make one big assumption and it’s around the financial realities and motivators for Schools, Academies and Trusts in terms of embracing a NetZero agenda and that is in my experience for most Schools, Academies and Trusts saving money is almost as important as saving Carbon or in many cases more important. This is not a judgment on the desire of Schools and Trusts to tackle Climate Change and live in a better world, but more a reflection of the harsh realities and extremely challenging financial times Schools have found themselves living through, as a result of austerity, COVID and the real-term cuts to finances over many years now. This reality therefore for many Schools and Trusts means that they simply don’t have any Capital reserves or access to regular funding, to pay for Capital infrastructure projects other than essential maintenance and the more extreme projects required to address health and safety issues, funding for NetZero projects, therefore, falls into the nice to have bucket. Unfortunately, this funding challenge is further compounded by the nature of most NetZero programmes, which require an ‘Invest to Save’ approach where a sizable investment is made upfront in order to recognise the £ and CO2 rewards over a period of many years. This catch 22 situation can only really be solved when Climate Change is truly recognised as a Climate Emergency and therefore given the right levels of priority to secure funding.

So if you accept my assumption above, how does a School or Trust square this circle? Firstly it needs to recognise de-carbonisation as a strategic priority and then until things change, there are three main funding routes available to secure the upfront Capital required (we will explore these in more detail in a later blog), but all of them in reality require a level of specialist support and strategic planning to be accessed. Essentially the funding routes available to Schools and Trusts fall into three buckets:

  1. Grant Funding – for example, the Government Launched its £1bn Public Sector Decarbonisation Funding programme in the Autumn of 2020. This fund was accessible by any Publicly funded organisation including Academies and Trusts and has provided one-off grants (often in the £millions) to fund building improvement projects that meet certain levels of reduced carbon emissions.
  2. Loans – Salix have provided interest-free loans to Schools, Academies and Trusts for a number of years to finance up to 100% of the costs of energy-saving projects meeting certain criteria. There are typically two payback criteria associated with this funding, the first is that the loan must be paid back (ideally through the savings generated) within, 5, 7 or in some cases 8 years and achieve a lifetime Carbon reduction rate e.g. £200/tCO2.
  3. Private Finance – there are a number of Private Finance options including standard leasing arrangements that can be used to finance the upfront Capital investments but just as with the Salix Loans there will need to be a repayment model (again ideally funded through savings generated) that sees the initial loan value plus interest payments, repaid over an agreed period. For most standard financing arrangements this will see a repayment timeframe of seven years.

To secure funding from any one of these three routes, a school or trust will be required to submit a detailed application with carefully calculated initial investment requirements, savings and repayment plans. Producing a successful application with the level of detail required and the certainty regarding the savings generated and in the case of the loans or financing arrangements, the certainty around the risks/ability to repay the initial loan through savings generated is simply beyond the in-house skills and experience found in most Schools, Trusts or indeed most organisations, whether they are in the public or private sectors.

Success therefore in attracting the necessary levels of investment funding for a serious NetZero programme, is in my opinion contingent on finding and securing the right specialist support and that brings us back to the question of how and where to find it? The answer of course is it depends on what type of specialist support you need because as discussed last week there are a myriad of organisations that claim they can provide you with a bewildering array of specialist help and services and this, in turn, brings us back to the need to have a clear Net Zero Vision and Strategy in place to help navigate your way through this consultancy and specialist minefield, without it costing you a small fortune.

But as ever there is help at hand and it is precisely this catch 22 situation regarding funding and specialist support, that enFrame are trying to solve for Schools and Trusts. At enFrame, we provide the place to start with the initial strategic support and guidance to develop a NetZero strategy and with our pathfinder schools and trusts, we are putting together an eco-system of NetZero specialist partners, resources and procurement frameworks to help and be used by all schools.

For more information on our partners and frameworks then please get in contact here.