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The power to cut wasted energy

As the lights go up for Christmas, Judy Mackie finds out how easy it is for schools to save electricity and money every day

Lessons are about to start. The janitorial supervisor walks in. "I'm here to do an energy audit. Our bills are too high. At this rate, there'll be no money for the school trip."

The primary school teacher is indignant. Surely this is nothing to do with her or her class. The janitor thinks otherwise.

"Let's have a look around. Television and video on standby: that wastes up to 40 per cent of the power they run on when they're in use. Kettle? Boiled full for one cup of tea? That uses 2,400 watts each time. Thermostat: 20C? Far too warm!"

The children watch, fascinated, as their teacher is given a lesson in energy efficiency. Then, at the janitor's request, they join in, guessing the energy rating to power up the class computers (210 watts each), overhead projector (1,000 watts) and the portable electric heater (3,000 watts).

The teacher is horrified to learn that if the photocopier is left on all night it uses up the energy equivalent of producing 5,300 copies. Amazed, she is told that 30 per cent of the energy used in her classroom can be saved simply by making one person - an energy monitor - responsible for turning off the lights during breaks and while the class is at gym.

And so the play continues.

Through role-play, a potentially heated conversation is transformed by the actors into an engaging whole-class discussion which ends: "Do you want to know who is responsible for saving energy in the school? Everyone - and that means you!"

Lights Out?, the latest Live Wire Productions mini-drama, was a hit with around 70 children and their teachers from Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire primary schools at a special energy efficiency celebration event hosted by Exxon Mobil and the Centre for Research, Education and Training in Energy.

Broomhill, Crimond and St Fergus primaries, together with four schools participating in the oil and gas company's Energy Efficiency Project, had much to celebrate. The seven schools are part of the Exxon Mobil Growing Schools Links programme which has been rolled out in the company's main employment areas and have so far benefited from more than pound;10,000 of investment in measures such as new lighting and heating controls.

Under the programme, facilitated by CREATE, local authority fundinghas been matched with rebates from the Energy Saving Trust's School Energy Programme to improve comfort and reduce energy costs in the schools. Three Aberdeenshire schools have received additional help from their council to secure future energy savings.

Exxon Mobil is also sponsoring CREATE to deliver training for teachers and help schools develop curriculum projects on energy and sustainability.

"We believe energy efficiency is important because it saves valuable natural resources, helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, leads to less waste and pollution and saves money," says Clay Vaughn, Exxon Mobil's production manager in Aberdeen.

"We hope learning about energy efficiency measures in school will encourage children to act as ambassadors and spread new behaviours to the wider community."

Ann Saffery, CREATE's media and communications manager, explains that she goes into schools first to visit the headteachers to see what they would like to do. "After that, it's flexible. Some schools have wanted to work with the children straight away, because it fits in with their environmental studies projects. So I may spend the day with different classes, doing activities.

"Other schools have asked me to begin with a teacher workshop, which is interactive. I usually walk around with the teachers to spot lights and equipment left on. We then look at resources that are available and discuss how energy fits into the curriculum."

Ms Saffery sometimes also advises members of the school board on good housekeeping measures and maintenance checks and will put schools in touch with their local authority energy managers so that energy surveys can be carried out.

"We aim for a whole school approach, because everyone can help make a difference," she says.

With a range of practical energy saving measures installed, the Scottish Exxon Mobil link schools are spreading the energy efficiency message to the staff and pupils.

"Ann has done a couple of introductory assemblies with the children, which were very popular," says Russell Adams, Ferryhill Primary's headteacher, "and we now have a pupil energy group going around to check for lights left on and so on. We also have an energy committee. Children read the meters and record the information on spreadsheets so that we can compare this year's readings with last year's to measure the long-term difference our measures are making."

Zofia Colling, headteacher at Broomhill Primary, says she is now keen to bring the Lights Out? script into school - it has been designed by Live Wire Productions for that purpose - to help pass its key message to everyone.

For information on how CREATE can help schools become more energy efficient, see fun educational activities see and www.energychest.netLive Wire Productions, e-mail

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