Schools OUT for COVID!

Special Focus: Higher Education

Much of the business world has been turned on its head in recent times. One sector at the top of the ‘Worst affected’ list would be Higher Education. Highlighted as a ‘national priority’ by government leaders the show must go on has been ringing in the ears of University executives. Also, the ever-present safety concern for the hundreds, if not thousands, of live-in stakeholders (students). 2020 has brought with it extraordinary challenges for institutions of higher learning.

Student accommodation was never designed for students to spend a great deal of time in, with dimensions slightly larger a Ford Transit. Of course, student accommodation has much more in the way of modern conveniences the fact remains that in ‘normal’ circumstances students are seldom there. However, in the last few months we have seen students self-isolating (the irony is also not lost on me at least that students are isolating with 100+ other students), while the lecture halls and the once bustling social spaces of the university campus lie empty. These hallowed halls of education have been turned off, as student tune into their scheduled lessons through laptops and tablets.

While University heads deal with the complexity of delivering its services through a completely new medium, financial leaders will be looking to cut costs in order to pay for the additional services. It makes sense for the focus of this cost cutting exercise to land on the unused assets, which in this case would be property costs. Of course, most property costs are static. Unless you are incredibly fortunate with the timing, lease agreements are seldom discussed or renegotiated outside of the agreement renewal date. However, Energy is not a static cost, and immediate – long-term opportunities should be explored for the financial health of the business. However, this is a complex situation in respect of the distributed buildings (campus) that most universities operate with.

Last year, Pearlstone introduced its market-leading product, the Virtual Integrated BuildingTM (ViB). Critically, ViB allows businesses with multiple sites to connect to the National Grid using our secure cloud-based platform. Businesses such as restaurant chains, supermarkets, hotels, retail stores, banks and universitiescan benefit from Demand Side Response (DSR). DSR is one way the National Grid balances supply and demand of energy at peak times.

A recent site survey completed by Pearlstone (pre-covid) on a leading UK university, highlighted some very interesting findings and potential cost savings. A total of eleven buildings were surveyed as part of the university campus, five of these buildings carrying the majority of the electrical load. The average accumulated total load of these buildings totalled 1.4MWh.

The proposed energy turn-down measures proposed by Pearlstone would go on to mean at total energy cost saving of up just over £18,000. Exploring the revenue generation products from the National grid (STOR) it would create a total financial benefit of £20,000. This financial benefit will be very helpful in the near term to cover the costs incurred to spin up digital classrooms. Ongoing it will help universities mitigate its energy use over time and enable more renewable energy to enter the mix in the future. Win Win.

I will end this article by saying that Higher Education workers are (among many others) the unsung heroes of our time. We, as well as a generation of students thank them for their dedication and service. As for possible energy / cost savings, Carpe Diem!

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