Open Letter to Minister of Energy
During part of the student consultation process at my high school Onslow College, which is at the formative stages of extensive renovation plans, it shocked me to learn that there is absolutely no financial incentive for schools to become more energy efficient.
The principal explained to the students present that the school is allocated $80,000 a year for energy costs. However, if there is circumstances (such as when this policy was established) where, say, due to a power crisis, power prices skyrocket, the Government will compensate the school for any amount over their energy allocation that the schools need. However, if the school decides to undertake a project to make it more energy efficient the school must pay for the developments themselves and they loose the money from their energy allocation that this development has saved them. I find this appalling for the following reasons:
- It is the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The current young people are the ones that in the future will have to face the challenges the most that are presented by the coming energy and environmental crises. Ensuring they have the skills to meet these challenges starts in schools, and what better way to support this then have sustainability modelled by schools themselves.
- There are a huge number of schools across the country, and if most or all of them took steps to reduce their energy consumption significantly it would make a huge saving on the power grid. This would help to reduce emissions (in accordance with the Kyoto protocol) and reduce the need to build more power stations.
- It is costing the Government a lot of money. The long term savings of having more energy efficient schools are huge, which would allow the Government to spend more money on other parts of education (such as funding the work on the Decade of ESD properly).
Obviously it is beneficial for everyone to reduce their energy usage, and a simple change in policy encouraging schools to become more energy efficient, rather than discouraging them would have a huge effect. There are many possible things schools could do to model and therefore educate people and students about what it means to be energy efficient and how this can be achieved. These include ensuring insulation is up to scratch, heating is as efficient as possible, or, even, as I am trying to push at my own school, installing a windmill or solar panels so the school can produce some of it’s own power. This would be a clearly visual model of renewable energy being produced close to where is will be used.