LocatED launches ‘Net Zero Accelerator’ feasibility study to decarbonise schools in England

The Net Zero Accelerator is a new programme to deliver the scale of decarbonisation across the education estate required to make a proportionate contribution to the government’s net zero targets.

The education estate currently represents 37% of public sector building carbon dioxide emissions

9 November 2023 (London) LocatED, the specialist government-owned property consultancy, has announced the start of a feasibility study for its Net Zero Accelerator programme – a scheme that aims to facilitate the rapid rollout of decarbonisation initiatives across the education estate. Delivery partners from the private sector have been selected to take part in a feasibility study that will work with 50 schools from across England to explore the commercial viability of a range of decarbonisation interventions.

Net Zero Accelerator

The concept of the Net Zero Accelerator is to create a ‘one stop shop’ to fund and deliver decarbonisation initiatives across the education estate through a new national service. This will provide responsible bodies, such as local authorities and multi-academy trusts, with a low burden service to address building condition and energy efficiency to help improve their estate including the delivery of decarbonisation interventions.

Furthermore, the programme will aim to reduce risk to responsible bodies as well as the time and resources they put into decarbonisation. This will be achieved by requiring no upfront payment; through sharing the risk of delivery with external market partners; and arranging the intervention work and funding for them.

Commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to create and run the programme, LocatED launched the Net Zero Accelerator in August this year with a market engagement session attracting over 270 participants. With Net Zero a key aim of the DfE’s Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy for the education system, the programme aims to help deliver this.

Commenting on the launch of the Net Zero Accelerator feasibility study, LocatED Chief Executive Lara Newman said:

“We are passionate about helping the DfE and, indeed, the whole country achieve Net Zero. The education estate represents 37% of all public sector building emissions. If schools and colleges are able to reduce their carbon footprint and achieve net zero, this will go a long way to meeting the government’s goal.

“However, we recognise that for individual educational bodies, figuring out the right thing to do for their estate is incredibly difficult to do alone. Deciding whether to opt for air source heat pumps and solar panels or installing an electric vehicle charging station and added insulation is not an easy choice. This is why the Net Zero Accelerator is intended to lift the burden from the educational bodies of identifying what interventions will work for their buildings and how the work will be financed.”

Baroness Barran, Minister for the School System and Finance commented:

A central service to cover this important and ambitious project will be invaluable and an important step towards improving the sustainability of the education estate. It is an area that we need to develop with routes through for busy schools and colleges that are achievable and impactful. I look forward to the findings of their work in the new year.”

Feasibility Study

The feasibility study, which began on 6 November, will demonstrate the range of potential decarbonisation interventions that could be delivered as part of the Net Zero Accelerator; the associated reduction in carbon produced and energy consumed; the cost of delivery; and the income generation based on existing school data such as energy consumption, condition data, asset registers and building surveys. It will also explore how a positive return on investment (ROI) can be generated so that a commercially viable programme of work can be rolled out at pace.

Following an Invitation to Tender in September 2023, LocatED and the DfE appointed the following organisations to deliver the feasibility study:

  • Barker Associates in consortia with: Place Group, Ashden Climate Solutions/Let’s Go Zero, Lloyds Bank, Caladen Consulting Limited and Ginger Energy
  • Arcadis in consortia with Cundall
  • Gleeds in consortia with eEnergy and PureThermal
  • Morgan Sindall Construction
  • Syzygy Consulting

Partners will each develop proposals for ten schools selected from a batch of 50, which have been chosen based on criteria including potential carbon savings, capital/ROI and operational impact.

The studies are due to conclude by the end of the year and report by the end of February 2024. The results of the feasibility study will inform the viability of a trial roll out in Spring 2024.


NZA Partner Quotes

Barker Associates Stuart White, Managing Partner “The Net Zero Accelerator programme is a huge opportunity to create a step change in the carbon reduction journey for the Education sector. To be involved in this feasibility study for the Department for Education and LocatED is a testament to our team’s commitment to shaping a sustainable future for our schools, academies and the whole country. Barker are delighted to embark on this transformative journey with our consortium team members, driving innovation and paving the way for a net-zero future in education.”

Arcadis Andrew Dutton, Sector Leader – Education “We believe that there is a huge opportunity to accelerate net-zero interventions across the schools’ estates and the impact of this nationally will be significant. The success of this, will not necessarily be dependent on decarbonisation funding alone, but on establishing the right strategy that achieves the greatest possible impact for the investment. We are delighted to be able to play a part in shaping this important feasibility study to establish the potential impact the schools’ estate can have on improving quality of life.”

Gleeds Dave Wakelin, Director of Sustainability “Gleeds is delighted to have been selected as a partner working with LocatED on this project which represents a step change in how the public sector delivers its net zero obligations. The huge oversubscription for grant schemes like PSDS shows the strong demand across the public sector for funding to deliver decarbonisation. The Gleeds consortium is incredibly proud to be working with DfE and LocatED to develop solutions that bridge the funding gap and bring together private and public sectors to deliver decarbonisation on a massive and sustainable scale.”

Morgan Sindall Construction Alan Smedley, National Framework Director “We’re excited to be working in partnership with the Department for Education and LocatED to support the Net Zero Accelerator programme. In addition, we’re thrilled to be working in alliance with some of our existing industry partners to highlight many of the solutions tried and tested on our own collaborative projects that will support long-term decarbonisation in the education sector.”

Syzygy Consulting James Stammers, Chief Project Officer “As Europe’s leading consultancy in Renewable Energy, EV Charging Infrastructure and Decarbonisation projects, we are delighted and honoured to have been selected to take part in the Net Zero Accelerator programme, and to work alongside LocatedED and The Department of Education in the development of decarbonisation initiatives for the education estate.”