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/ 23 April 2014

Whatever the weather: how to give a warm welcome whilst saving energy and carbon

Life in churches in the Diocese of London is thriving, with a host of activities and initiatives, especially around the Diocese’s Capital Vision 2020 programme.

Activity means energy – people’s energy, and the energy to open our buildings, heat and light them, and offer a warm welcome to visitors.

How then can we still save energy and carbon, and contribute to caring for the environment which is God’s creation?

Our 2012 results for energy consumption around the diocese point to this difficulty; but they also hint at some answers.

Some of the news is good.

First, we can celebrate some very good news about 36 Causton Street – see London Diocesan House slashes carbon footprint.

We’ve been saving more energy in the building, and we purchase renewable electricity from Good Energy. We’ve also squeezed into a smaller space and let off the rest. Plus a contribution to the Woodland Trust for about 40 new trees, this has cut our net carbon footprint from fuel and power for this office to below zero! We’ll keep this up year on year. 

But there is also a challenge ahead. We use parish annual returns to track our energy and carbon in parishes from year to year. Staff and volunteers in churches returning their figures from year to year are performing a loyal – and very useful – service.

The last year we’ve analysed was 2012. It happens this was our first target year – we aimed to save 20.12 per cent since 2005. 

Our 2011 figures were very encouraging, showing 21.7 per cent energy savings and 14.9 per cent carbon savings. This made us quote hopeful – the Bishop of London was even congratulated in the House of Lords for this achievement by our parishes and churches.

However the results for 2012 have not turned out as we had wished. In fact our energy and carbon spiked in 2012. After all the adjustments, energy was still down by 10.4 per cent since 2005, but carbon emissions by just 2.4 per cent – well short of our target.

This does look like a setback, but we can see a number of good reasons:

  • Everyone knows the whole world is turned off the subject of energy and climate change. This is a dangerous trend, but it’s a fact. As we keep getting stranger and more scary weather, opinion will shift again in the right direction. Meanwhile as a church we must keep steady and not let up in our efforts.
  • The weather in 2012 was mostly very wet. Rain has a cooling effect too. It would be understandable if churches had their heating on more.
  • 2012 was not the first year with a sharp uptick in energy and carbon. The same happened in 2009, yet we learnt from that and recovered quickly. 
  • Much more positive, 2012 saw a lot of Olympics related activity. Churches held special events. This was an exciting time with a huge expansion in our mission which is being sustained and built on through Capital Vision. We think it reasonable that churches may well have turned the heating on to make the church more welcoming for events taking place there, while it was bucketing down outside.
  • Of course as we expand our mission with CV projects, churches are bound to need more heating and lighting. All the more reason for good management and efficiency. We need to act quickly whenever the weather warms up. Like now. Can we make sure the heating is off for this warm Spring?  Maybe we can keep it off now till winter? Well we’ll see, there may be more sudden switches in the weather. We save money as well as energy and carbon, if we’re nimble in changing the settings on the boiler and thermostats whenever needed.

We think we’ve got a great chance to get back on track in 2014. Let’s set ourselves a new target of 21 per cent savings. That’s half way to our target of 42 per cent by 2020 – a stretch, but let’s see what we can do!

Now here is another positive note. We have in our possession the ideal tools to manage our premises, their energy and carbon, as well as more and more creatively for mission. 

The first, as we have mentioned, is parish annual returns. Now’s the time for churches to enter their energy figures along with all the other information into annual returns. Look for Shrinking the Footprint in Parish Annual Returns. We hope as many churches as possible can enter energy figures this year. We know some churches have struggled with the new system. Do call your area advisors for help, or Brian Cuthbertson on 020 7932 1229; brian.cuthbertson@nulllondon.anglican.org.

The second tool in our box is called Energy-saving Benchmarking. See our web page. It’s absolutely free to use. The system has just been improved, to rates churches for water and waste, as well as energy and carbon. 

The great thing is, Energy-saving Benchmarking takes account of the size of a church, its attendance and whole range of activities forming part of the church’s uses and its mission. It copes with all the different things that go on in a church – worship of course, community uses, a cafe, a clergy flat, nursery school etc. Then it compares energy performance with these activities and comes up with a combined measure of one against the other. One size doesn’t fit all! So we can see how well energy and carbon – as well as money – are being used.

If we’re to understand the balance of activity compared to energy across the Diocese, and to manage this better, every church should do Benchmarking. Nearly one in four of our churches have taken part already. Have you?  Again, contact Brian Cuthbertson on 020 7932 1229; brian.cuthbertson@nulllondon.anglican.org, and get a new kick start for your church on this important journey.

About Brian Cuthbertson

Brian is the Head of Environment and Sustainability at the Diocese of London.

Read more from Brian Cuthbertson

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