ENERGY prices are headline news. Soaring prices, frozen prices;
cheap tariffs, green tariffs - the customer has to get to grips
with the details of his or her bill and energy consumption or risk
losing hundreds of pounds. For most customers - including the
16,200 Anglican churches in the UK - reducing heating and
electricity costs is an economic imperative.
"People are paying higher prices already, and that is not going
to change," the environment officer for the diocese of Exeter,
Martyn Goss, says. "Those churches who invested early on in
renewable energy and energy efficiency measures are now in a really
strong position. You can't argue with the economics, but for many
churches and congregations it is also a question of making a
difference to future generations.
"What they are doing is taking the power of God and offering it
to the people of God, putting energy back into the community. We
have been sharing food and clothes for years; it's about time we
looked at sharing energy."
The Church of England's journey towards reducing its carbon
footprint and investing in renewable energy began several decades
ago, but crystallised with the strategy Shrinking the Footprint in
2006. The strategy is now seven years into its 44-year lifespan -
it adopted the Government's timescale, and pledged to cut its
carbon footprint by 80 per cent by 2050. But the environmental
adviser to the Archbishops' Council, David Shreeve, says that there
is a movement to set a more demanding deadline.
"2050 is an awfully long way ahead; we just came into line with
government targets. There is a push in some areas to say 'Let's set
a serious deadline for this.'"
A reduction of 42 per cent by 2020 is now suggested as the
interim target, and a seven-year plan has been published, setting
out goals and deadlines.
THE Energy Audit carried out by the Church in 2012/13 provided
the first national attempt to set out the current annual carbon
footprint of energy use in the Church's estate, which includes
schools, church halls, and vicarages, as well as churches. The
audit relied on about 400 volunteers to monitor energy online.
It found that, based on an earlier Carbon Trust report, the
Church has reduced its energy consumption by an estimated seven per
cent over the past seven years.
Energy savings of another ten per cent should be saved
relatively easily, the report suggests - but then it gets harder,
Mr Shreeve says.
"Without huge expenditure, it should be possible to reduce
energy use by ten per cent by simple things such as putting a draft
excluder on the door, or changing light bulbs, but we don't know
how many have already done this, of course.
"It's not an easy thing, reducing energy. In London, for
example, where a lot of work has been done with churches, the
figures have actually gone up although lots of energy efficiency
measures have been adopted, because churches are being used
"It is obviously good that churches are being used more, that
congregations are growing; so we have to deal with this. Figures
are going to vary. . . When we've had an amazing summer, like the
last one, energy use is lower, but we use a lot more energy if we
have a bad winter.
"Lots of our churches have taken action already; very few can
afford to waste their energy. But you might have two identical
churches in very different situations: one might be open one day a
week, and one might be open seven days week, running a soup kitchen
and other groups midweek - their energy use is going to be very
THE Church recommends that an energy audit should be carried out
by consultants as a first step. This will produce a detailed report
of energy use, and suggestions of where energy could be saved
One of the biggest areas is often external lighting. Simply by
reducing the number of hours that a church is floodlit can save a
huge amount of energy.
Matt Fulford is a consultant who advises churches on
energy-saving measures, and also works with the Gloucester diocesan
advisory committee (DAC). There are, he says, some simple things
that most churches could do.
"Avoid the default position of 'heating the church because it's
good for the building'; it may be the case, but very often the
church stood for 600 years without any heating, which has been
introduced only in the past 100 years, and can cope without it.
"If reviewing a church's heating system, then select a system
aligned to how the building is really going to be used, not just
underfloor heating because it is nice in the church down the road -
that could be a dreadfully expensive system if it is not the right
And simply, but very importantly, he says, set the controls
correctly, and make sure that they match up to how the church is
used; reduce draughts with curtains and draught excluders; and
insulate roof-space where possible.
One parish in Yorkshire saved money by listening to the advice
of a visitor, who noticed that the lights in the nave were high up
on the ceiling, but said that if they were lowered, they would not
need such strong light bulbs. The visitor even volunteered to come
in and lower the chains for the lights and put in a less powerful
bulb, instantly saving the church money.
Most dioceses have an environmental adviser, lay or ordained,
who can advise churches and the DAC on energy efficiency and
renewable-energy schemes for electricity and heating.
THE general view on energy-saving has shifted dramatically in
the past few years, largely to do with energy economics, Mr Shreeve
says. "People used to say they didn't want to change to
energy-efficient light bulbs because they didn't like the kind of
light they gave out, but now everyone accepts that is what they
Many churches are thinking much bigger than just changing light
bulbs, however. At St Michael and All Angels', Withington, in
Gloucester diocese, for example, the breakdown of the existing oil
boiler was a starting point for thinking about alternatives
(see case study, above). Small, rural, churches have
installed wood-pellet boilers; wind turbines have been erected on
church towers to provide energy for heating; solar panels have been
installed on thousands of roofs; and ground-source heating has been
installed in some churches.
Mr Shreeve is optimistic about reaching the goal, but realistic,
too. "Churches still have a long way to go, but so many of them are
just getting on with it. The Church of England isn't an
organisation where people will phone up and tell us when they've
changed a light bulb. But on the other hand it has some buildings
which are very difficult, and impossible to change."
Mr Goss has come up with an idea that may just work in some of
the impossible-to-change churches. Last Sunday, a pilot scheme
began in Devon to loan churches re-usable "hot-bott" cushions for
churchgoers to sit on during services. The cushions were originally
created for sports stadiums in Scotland, and can be used up to 1000
times. At the press of a button, the cushions heat instantly, and
the warmth lasts for more than an hour - long enough for the
average church service
Case study: Withington
WHEN members of the congregation at St Michael and
All Angels', Withington, in Gloucester diocese, realised that their
old church boiler was on its last legs, they decided to have a
The worn-out boiler gave the them a chance to think
they took it, deciding not only to replace their boiler with a
"green" wood-pellet boiler, but to look at the church's energy
consumption as a whole, and find ways of reducing it.
The result is that the Grade I listed Norman church
was able to claim to be the first zero-carbon church building in
the UK, and the church is now earning an income from selling its
One of the churchwardens, Dr Philippa Moore, said
that the small congregation of about 20 people was enthusiastic
from the start.
"Our church is a Grade I listed building, and it's a
big church with a high nave ceiling; so it was always difficult to
heat. We put up displays in the village so that everyone could
see what we were doing. The villagers were all supportive. It's a
small village with a very small regular congregation. Everybody was
pleased with the result."
The £43,000 project was largely paid for by grants,
and here the church was helped by having an expert in the village,
who is also the diocese of Gloucester's sustainability adviser,
Matt Fulford. He helped the church with the process of applying for
grants, and managed the whole project.
The first step was for the church to understand what
its energy needs were. A Sunday service and a midweek service meant
that the heating was needed only seven hours a week, but the main
energy use was from external floodlighting.
This demand was cut by altering the timing on the
floodlights to go off at 10.30 p.m. instead of midnight, and to be
off completely between May and September. These times and dates
were agreed after consultation with the village, and the change
instantly reduced the overall electrical demand by 13 per cent.
The internal lights were then replaced with
energy-efficiency lights, reducing consumption by a further 24 per
The biomass boiler replaced an inefficient oil
boiler, and reduced consumption by another 45 per cent. Twenty-four
solar PV panels were then installed on the roof, feeding back
unwanted energy to the national grid, and these are now generating
about £1200 for the church, providing a positive carbon abatement.
The total result adds up to a zero-carbon church.
The solar panels cannot be seen from below, but only
from the tower. Dr Moore said that this undoubtedly helped in
winning people over to the scheme.
"We are such a small church. It's amazing what God
can do. We have had a lot of interest from other churches, and show
many people around our building, showing them what can be