Measuring energy use
We need to cut our energy use – because energy is a limited resource, and because of pollution and climate change. Measuring, monitoring and reducing our energy use helps us care for God’s Creation.
To make sure we save our Church’s energy, and are as efficient as possible, we need to measure and report it. This also helps the Church and the Diocese to work towards our target of Net Zero Carbon by 2030.
We should of course save the cost of energy, as a matter of good Christian stewardship. We have to be more frugal in straitened times. Climate change itself will add to economic pressures.
We must be mindful at all times about fuel poverty, including among our own congregations. We want our churches to be comfortably warm and well lit. But they should not be burning energy unnecessarily that not all their members could afford.
But it is not just a matter of cost. We should look for the greenest energy supplier, even before choosing the cheapest.
Accurate recording and reporting are essential, if one is to know whether any savings have been made.
Church energy use is reported via the national system of Parish Annual Returns. Log in, then click on ‘Enter your Data’. You should then see the available forms, including for the Energy Footprint Tool.
Enter your data for the previous calendar year. The system will immediately report to you your consumption, with benchmarked grades from A++ (best) to G.
Make sure your data is complete, in order to ensure an accurate result. Include your Hall and any other outbuildings, as well as your Church. The Hall is usually more energy efficient, because it has more weekday activities. The system awards you a grade for efficiency after allowing for how much the premises are used, as well as relative to the size of the buildings.
But how does the long-suffering churchwarden read the figures to put on their church’s returns?
We measure oil in litres; by checking the level in the tank, or adding deliveries up during the year.
Otherwise we use kWh for everything. That’s easy for electricity. The kWh is the standard unit, on most meters and on the bill.
Gas units are confusing, and they’re not labelled on the meter. The word ‘unit’ used to mean heat units (therms or BTUs), now it means volume. It can be imperial (100s of cubic feet) or metric (cubic metres, ie 1000s of litres). Then that has to be converted to kWh.
Your bills should tell you how to multiply units to kWh. However if you can’t do this, the Energy Footprinting Tool will allow you to enter the number of units – then work it out for you.
It’s best to take the number of units from meters if possible, not to rely on bills unless you can’t avoid it.
Bills may be estimated, but you shouldn’t let this go on too long anyway. Nowadays suppliers are asking for customer readings when they can’t get access – they know they need some check on their estimated figures. Returning a customer reading means you pay the right amount and can keep tabs as you go along.
Finding your meter can be tricky, and working out what it covers – the whole site or part? Are any areas sub-metered? Or separately metered, with an independent intake?
When you read your electricity or gas meters, include only the five figures before the decimal point. That tells you the number of units since the meter was installed. Ignore the red figures, or fractions after the decimal point.
For annual returns, you need to report the difference between the end of last year and the end of the year before that. Therefore it makes sense to take your own readings as close as possible to the turn of the year.
If you just can’t get at your meters, the Footprint Tool will allow you to enter your costs, then estimate the number of units from that.
If you can’t avoid taking readings from your bills, quarter dates will probably not correspond to year ends. You can apportion the amount which straddles each year end, between the numbers of days in the old year and the new year. Then add the two reduced amounts at the beginning and end of the year to the other three complete quarters between.
An estimated bill is better than nothing! For the whole Diocese and Church of England, the errors tend to cancel out, so this is useful for purposes of Annual Returns.
As explained above, electricity meter readings will be in kWh. The total for the year can be entered straight in the Energy Footprint Tool in Parish Annual Returns.
Once it has been established whether your meter measures imperial or metric units, take the annual total and multiply from units to calorific value, then again from calorific value to kWh, using conversion factors stated on bills.
Your bills should tell you the conversion factors. Alternatively, call your gas supply company and request conversion factors.
If you can’t make these conversions, the Energy Footprint Tool will allow you to report units (and the size of the unit in the case of gas).
‘Gross calorific values’ (‘gross CV’) should be used, not ‘net CV’.
Smart metering should help with accurate and easy reporting, and with improving efficiency.
Smart metering is now being rolled out for electricity supplies, beginning with some larger premises including churches.
Churches and people
Energy and carbon, global warming and climate change
Green Energy Suppliers
Parish Annual Returns (for national Energy Footprint Tool).
UK Power Networks
Southern Gas Networks.
Head of Environment and Sustainability.
Environment and Sustainability, front page.