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Brighter picture of church energy use

This page presents information gained, and lessons gleaned, from energy figures in Parish Annual Returns from 2005 to 2014. For a further report on 2015 figures, see Record Annual Returns show ups and downs of energy and carbon saving.

2016 showed net savings by our churches since 2005 as 14.1% for energy and 10.4% for carbon. This is less progress than we would wish for. However low energy lighting is being rolled out more and more, which we hope may lead to the graph ‘heading south’ again.

See also Route 2050, the Diocese of London’s campaign to reduce its energy use and carbon emissions.


In 2007, parishes returned their first report of energy figures, including for 25% of churches in 2005. By 2011, figures were returned for 40% of churches. Four years later, that return rate had risen to 47.5%.

That represented a great response from parishes. We’re very grateful for the efforts of so many volunteers in parishes around the Diocese.

During the years since we started collecting and analysing energy data, we have refined our analysis and improved the resolution.


First, what have we learnt, and what are the key messages for us to take from all this effort?

Well, we have good reason to persevere, saving energy, and costs, and carbon emissions too.

Performance up to 2010 left us within striking distance of our then short-term target of 20.12% savings by 2012. This pattern of improvement was maintained in 2011. However there was a reversal in 2012.

Efforts have since been made to return to the improving curve seen from 2005-2011. 2013 became our best year ever, posting 23.2% savings in energy, translating into 15.9% savings in carbon emissions. But then we fell back again in 2014, to 17.8% and 10.4% savings in energy and carbon respectively.

The good news is that although some years show peaks, other show troughs and most are on an intermediate trend line. That trend is steadily down, while the peaks and troughs are getting less each time as well (so far at least).

So what should we do to sustain year on year energy and carbon savings?


  • Change light bulbs to low energy types if you haven’t already – one of our Three Basic Steps. St Hilda Ashford is one of many churches that have completed this exercise – St Hilda’s have reported an 80% saving in their electricity consumption!
  • Keep paying attention to the simple things – switching off unneeded lights, closing doors to stop draughts, not boiling a full kettle for just one or two cups – every unit of energy we can save adds up over the year;
  • During the winter, concentrate heating where possible in occupied zones – the front of the church, the office/smaller meeting rooms during the week. Adjust radiator thermostats where we’ve got them. Maybe turn off in little-used areas, lobbies etc where people have their coats on;
  • For milder weather – many churches have turned down their thermostats; please do this if you haven’t yet. Our rule of thumb: turn down by 1 deg C;
  • But when it’s freezing outside, turn up the gas a little, temporarily – in preference to bringing in portable electric heaters. Use these very sparingly if at all – their energy and carbon efficiency is very poor, very counter-productive;
  • Turn down the heat again promptly at the end of every cold snap;
  • Make sure timings are right to warm up just in time for services (and check they are adjusted when the clocks change, March and October).

The main message is – try to concentrate on saving electricity! It’s much more carbon intensive than gas. Gas use in our churches has plummeted while electricity use has remained fairly steady – even though many churches now have low energy lighting. This must be due at least in part to hi-tech systems which use electricity – IT, audio-visual systems, amplification for bands etc.

Stewardship and leadership

Our principal efforts are about saving energy and carbon emissions from our churches.

We want to save money too, nothing wrong with that – far from it. It’s just good stewardship.

Church and home

As a church and a diocese, we must put our own house in order first.

Then let’s take home with us what we learn in the pew!

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