Printed from the Society, Religion and Technology Project website:

Church Energy Saving In Scotland

image Published: Apr 14, 2010

Saving energy is one of the key elements in the move to a more sustainable use of resources and care for the environment. Churches are typically large, old, listed buildings with intermittent patterns of use, and so can easily waste a lot of energy. In late 1978, the Church of Scotland took the pioneering step of tackling its energy use by launching probably the world’s first energy efficiency scheme for churches and related buildings. The impetus came for its Society, Religion and Technology Project, and began with sending energy efficiency guidelines, letters and publicity sheets to Church of Scotland Presbyteries and office bearers, and also to some Scottish Episcopal and other churches. Some 3000 churches in Scotland were made aware of the scheme. In 1980, the administration of the scheme passed to the General Trustees department of the Church of Scotland at 121 George Street, Edinburgh, where Mr. Robert Lindores is the contact person.

By August 1980, about 173 surveys had been done or applied for (about 5%), and about 3 times that number applying for details. Surveys then implied that an average saving of about 20% was possible, and the possibility of saving £0.5M out of £2.5M spent annually by the church on heating and lighting. The results of the first 120 were written up in the SRT booklet “Make the Most of It”. As the scheme developed, this was updated in 1986 by “Making Even More of It”, and then in 1994, the consultants distilled 15 years experience into the book “Heat and Light - A Practical Guide to Energy Conservation in Church Buildings”, published by St.Andrew Press, £1.95.

Before the scheme the energy management of church premises was generally poor. A few showed high levels of awareness and efficiency, showing what could be done in the others. Most of the savings have been through the better management and maintenance of the existing heating system and buildings, matching heating surface to heating requirements, by removing unnecessary surfaces (e.g. corridors, porches) and by draught control. Insulation can help a lot, but it is often costly.

By 1995 about 1200 initial and repeat surveys have been done. Most of theses have been Church of Scotland premises but includes a few Episcopal and other churches. An analysis was made of 103 cases which had come up for 5-yearly property inspection, where surveys had been done. The energy costs before and after implementing the survey recommendations were predicted and then compared with the actual energy costs. Nearly 60% were making substantial savings compared with doing nothing. This is encouraging, but still points to great scope for more to be done to save energy in the churches. About half of the recent surveys have been re-surveys, and it has remained quite difficult to get congregations which have not yet had surveys to appreciate the significance of having one. There are renewed efforts to increase the use of the scheme.

Since this pioneering work, many churches in other parts of Europe have begun similar schemes, notably in Germany and Sweden. But it is clear that much more could be done, saving both the churches’ energy bills and also helping to play our part in sustainable energy use in God’s creation.
Getting a Heating Survey Done

Robert Lindores is the man at 121 George Street with all the information needed to get an energy survey under way. Send in the form or just telephone him (0131 225 5722) to get an information pack on the Better Heating scheme. If you then want to go further you can fill in the survey request form included in the pack, and Archie Strang will arrange a visit to your buildings to discuss your heating questions. The charge for his visit is based on your annual fuel accounts, but can be subsidised by a generous grant from the General Trustees. Every aspect of church heating is covered in a survey, from explaining how to use thermostat controls better right through to a full scale upgrading of your system. Your whole church can feel the comfort - especially the treasurer!

What a typical energy survey will do…

> Assess the energy characteristics of your buildings.
> Examine the condition, performance and capability of your present heating system in relation to the requirements of your buildings.
> Make appropriate “no cost/low cost” recommendations that will improve comfort and reduce energy consumption.
> Offer technical guidelines for upgrading or replacing heating systems where appropriate.
> Advise on alternative types of system that are available.
>Supply checklists for energy management and maintenance problems.
> Set annual energy consumption targets for the congregation.
> Don’t forget the Lights!

A lot can be done to improve the way your light your buildings. A new generation of lamps brings longer life for the bulb and uses much less energy. Sodium pressure lamps can produce up to six times as much energy per watt and last 12 times longer. They cost more to buy initially, but in the long run you will be winning both ways. Hugh Nicol looks after the lighting consultancy scheme.

Why Bother? - Stewarding God’s Gifts

You are literally burning some of those stewardship envelopes if your stewardship doesn’t include how you use energy in the church. We reckon the Church of Scotland’s energy bill is at least three quartets of a million pounds less because of the savings this scheme has achieved. Wouldn’t you want your church to benefit too? But it isn’t just about saving money. It’s also about caring for people and the earth we live on. Global warming now looks real. Burning coal, oil and gas is the No.1 culprit. For us climate change means more storms and wind. For people in Bangladesh it could mean great tracts of their land inundated. For the Marshall Islanders in the Pacific, their country could simply disappear under the sea. Those most affected are usually the poorest and least able to take preventive measures. Our profligate energy consumption can destroy lives, livelihoods and even countries. You and your church could help to save them by cutting your energy use and the pollution which it brings. Sometimes we feel that questions like this are too big for us to cope with. Added together, here is something practical you can do which will make a real difference.

What about your wider environment impact?

What about doing an environment survey on your church life? Many churches in Europe have woken up to the idea that we can be a witness to the world by lives that care for God’s creation. The Scottish churches have now launched the Eco-Congregation Programme in Scotland in conjunction with the government’s Keep Scotland Beautiful organisation. The Society Religion and Technology Project encourages congregations of all denominations to join the Programme. This will provide resources to help congregations audit their activities - like how we use transport, paper, what materials we buy, what environmental action we join in with in our community, what we could initiate. If your congregation would be interested in joining the scheme, contact SRT.

Printed from on Wed, January 16, 2019
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