Energy scheme earns money
The scheme, which involves a three to five-year contract between the schools and the state authorities, is expected to be broadened to more schools and other states in Germany.
In Berlin 150 schools - 15 per cent of the city's total - have received a share of more than Pounds 110,000 extra from the education authority which they can spend as they wish. In Hamburg the project has been extended to all the city schools since 1996 and in Hanover 40 are involved.
The scheme's dual purpose - to save on school running costs while achieving important environmental goals - has caught the imagination of schools which organise energy-saving projects for children, then put them into practice. Some schools were surprised to find how much could be saved just by switching off overhead projectors when not in use.
The Berlin-based independent Institute for Environmental Issues advises schools on energy-analysis and energy saving methods.
The costs are borne by the state and the European Community energy project SAVE.
"Just by closing the windows and turning out the lights in empty classrooms a school can save 3 to 4 per cent in energy costs in one year," said Malte Schmidthals of the institute.
Most schools can reduce energy costs by 10 per cent in the first year, with up to 20 per cent savings achieved in some. However other schools do feel they need more assistance.
The Lise Meitner School in Berlin saved Dm44,000 (Pounds 14,600) in energy costs in the first year alone, "by changing our attitudes, improving our awareness of energy saving and optimal adjustment of thermostats," says teacher Ulrich Traub.
The school received a "windfall" payment of half that sum, spending it on teaching materials, books and special school events.
Environmentalists say energy saving of more than 30 per cent can be achieved through reinvesting in environmentally-friendly technologies.
In the South-Western state of Baden-Wurttemburg, the state education authority has for the first time invited private contractors to invest in new energy-saving heating, ventilation and lighting systems for a large state comprehensive school.