Skip navigation
Skip navigation
You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser.


Juggling public sector finances and balancing budgets in a difficult economic climate is not an easy job and when it comes to planning new schools, hospitals and other community buildings local authorities should be striving to get the best combination of value for money and minimum running costs.

With energy prices and continuity of supply at the forefront of every planner’s mind - and meeting government renewable energy targets at the back of their minds - a key factor in all new public sector building projects should be the full life cost of heating and cooling the building, which will be at least 30 years.

Bearing in mind that up to 40% of total energy costs are spent heating and cooling buildings (according to the findings of a recent report), the decisions made now assume a new relevance and may have a major impact on budgets for years to come, as fossil fuel energy prices are certainly not going to fall.

The people behind the commissioning of the new Kings Mill Hospital in Mansfield certainly had this in mind when they chose to heat and cool their new building with a ground source sustainable energy generation system that is predicted to save the local NHS Trust around £120,000 a year in comparison to running a traditional oil or gas fired system. And the bonus is that they will also reduce carbon emissions by up to 1,700 tonnes a year.

Whilst Kings Mill Hospital has yet to open, another public building that is up and running and producing reliable energy saving figures using a low carbon Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) system is Gloucester Police HQ, which in its first year of operation exceeded energy efficiency targets by 15%, saved £60,000 in fuel costs (at current prices), and recorded a reduction of 36% in running costs overall. Importantly, the building services company managing the building expects these saving to improve in the coming years as more efficient ways to run the building are introduced. Further rises in fossil fuel energy prices will also have a significant impact on the savings that are achievable.

The GSHP systems for both Kings Mill Hospital and Gloucester Police were designed and installed by Geothermal International, a Coventry-based company that has pioneered the development of ground source renewable energy in the UK and which works closely with contractors on public sector projects. Other examples of its work can be found in new schools, colleges, universities, council buildings, medical centres, prisons, sports centres, local authority housing developments and even crematoriums around the country, and currently 75% of its new building projects are for the public sector.

Despite this, the figures represent only a small fraction of planned public sector construction. When asked, the reasons given for not considering ground source energy above other renewables or gas/oil were that either it was not known about or not proven. And among those that had heard of it, many were apparently put off by their perception of the comparatively high installation costs.

But GSHP systems have been around for over 20 years and have already been proven to offer considerable savings in energy costs in countries like the USA, Canada, Sweden, Germany and Switzerland. They are just relatively new in the UK because until now no company has had the foresight to see their potential and the expertise and commitment to develop systems that work in UK conditions.

That is all changing, as is the cost of installation. As more efficient systems are developed, the technology is proven and energy prices continue to rise, the admittedly higher cost of installation is coming down rapidly and pay back times that only a short time ago were 10-15 years have reduced to 5-7 years, making them much more economically viable and a practical choice of renewable energy.

Geothermal International believes that public sector decision makers cannot ignore the opportunity to reduce annual building running costs by up to 70% and C02 emissions by up to 50%, and says it is committed to making the benefits of GSHP technology more widely known.

It supports government initiatives that encourage more uptake of renewable energy and government calls for the public sector to lead the way by adopting renewables on flagship projects, but adds that in comparison to solar or wind GSHP systems should now be considered the optimum energy saving solution. They are more reliable and consistent, especially in the urban areas where most public sector building takes place, and more sustainable than biomass and CHP systems. And once installation is completed they have minimum visual or environmental impact, and lower operational and maintenance costs.

Geothermal International also points out that the public sector cost of adopting renewable energy solutions can be offset with ESCO funding, with Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) used to oversee the financing, construction, operation and/or maintenance of the system, subject to agreement. Indeed, it is now recognised that ESCOs are now one of the most effective mechanisms for public entities to develop and implement energy efficiency projects, and can produce significant benefits that include guaranteed energy savings each year.

Greater take-up of GSHP systems relies on increasing understanding about how they work and what they can do. This is coming but it is a slow process that is not helped by some contractors in the private sector with their own agenda, says Geothermal International. For example, during the recent tender process for seven new schools in Scotland, only one contractor specified the use of renewable energy to heat and cool the buildings, using GSHP in this case. All the others lobbied for traditional fossil fuel fired boilers. Thankfully, those making the decision had the foresight to choose the renewable solution, and as a result each school will reduce its energy bill by up to £19,000 a year, a significant saving when times are tough and budgets are stretched.

Public sector decision makers have a responsibility to consider all the options and not be easily swayed into sticking with what has gone before. Times are changing and if not automatically provided they should be prepared to demand a full review of a project’s feasible renewable energy solutions and be able to make their choices based on all the relevant facts.

Geothermal International is already working successfully within the public sector on a number of GSHP projects and says it is ready to discuss and compare the merits of renewable energy systems with all those wanting to go the extra mile to give the people they serve the most energy efficient building they can.

Editor’s Note: For further information contact Century Public Relations on tel: 024 7622 8881).


This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Century PR in the following categories: Environment & Nature, Construction & Property, for more information visit