Energy in Churches




Where should I start?

Being concerned about energy consumption is wise financial and environmental stewardship:
  • Energy consumption for heating and lighting is the main source of carbon emissions in churches, halls, offices, schools and clergy housing.
  • Energy costs are already high.  Energy prices are expected to continue to be volatile and increase substantially in the future as demand for oil outstrips supply.
Many people and organisations think immediately of renewables, but there are a number of steps you should take first.  Shrinking the Footprint and Eco-congregation have produced plenty of useful guidance in this area.
In summary, the steps are:

Step 1. Assess your current Carbon Footprint and audit activity
  • Appoint an energy or carbon 'tsar'
  • Read your meters regularly, and understand how you use energy
  • Complete the Diocese's annual Measuring Our Footprint survey
  • Complete the Shrinking the Footprint simple energy-environment audit
Step 2. Use energy more efficiently
Step 3. Switch to green energy
Step 4. Generate your own renewable energy
Step 5. Support the Climate Justice Fund
Step 6. Review - take another look at your footprint and start again


Church energy studies

How do I organise an energy study?

DARE provide an energy audit service to many sectors, and have undertaken a number of studies of churches and other religious buildings in Devon.  The studies can cover general opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable generation, or a more specific area, e.g. photovoltaics on the church roof.  The cost of a study is typically £300-350, to which the Diocese is usually willing to contribute half.  The church is encouraged to contribute as much as possible, although one church contributed the whole amount, and the Diocese paid the full amount for one church.  Steps in the process, if the parish want the Diocese to contribute:
  • The parish need to agree the terms of the study and funding with the Diocese.
  • The parish contact DARE on 01837 89200, mail@devondare.org to arrange a site visit.
  • In advance the site visit, depending on the focus for the study, the parish may need to provide DARE with certain information, e.g. energy usage, boiler size.
  • DARE will produce a report, copied to the parish and the Diocese.
  • DARE will invoice the Diocese, and the church will then reimburse the Diocese.

What happens then?

The reports typically make a number of recommendations for energy efficiency and renewable generation, which might be relevant to the short term or long term, and of varying complexity and cost.  Some recommendations could be implemented quickly at minimal cost.  Others may require a substantial project.  Please see below for the process for Energy Projects.

What studies have already been done?

The Diocese has organised a number of energy studies of churches and church buildings.  These have been undertaken by the Carbon Trust (using consultants Faber Maunsell, now called AECOM), the Devon Association for Renewable Energy (DARE), and Envision.  These have varied from a full feasibility study of options for energy efficiency and renewable generation, to a study of specific technologies, to a sustainability review of plans for a new church hall.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies

A range of renewable technologies are available for generating electricity and heat, from sun, wind, water and biomass.  Some are more appropriate for installation in church buildings and use of church lands than others.
  • Diocesan guidance on Renewable technologies (pdf, 148k)
  • DARE factsheets (scroll down to end of menu on left)
  • Information from YouGen, primarily targeted at households
  • Downloadable version of David Mackay "Sustainable Energy – without the hot air"
  • English Heritage publications on energy efficiency and renewables in historic buildings, covering
    • Climate Change and the Historic Environment
    • Energy Conservation in Traditional Buildings
    • Biomass Energy and the Historic Environment
    • Micro wind generation and traditional buildings
    • Small-Scale Solar Thermal Energy and traditional buildings
    • Small-Scale Solar Electrics (Photovoltaics) Energy and traditional buildings
  • For energy-efficient lighting, the National Trust use Lighting Services.  Their website suggests low-energy alternatives to existing lamps and controls, and enables corporate customers to maintain a database of their lighting requirements.

Energy Projects

This information is also available as a pdf (168k).

The diagram illustrates the process that most projects will need to follow.  Please click on the image for a larger version.  There are four project phases:
  1. Outline design
  2. Detailed design
  3. Approvals
  4. Implementation
Diagram annotations:

Note [1] Energy studies - see above

Note [2] Installers of renewable technologies

We advise that you seek at least two quotations from different suppliers for any proposed heating or energy efficiency measures, or microgeneration technologies.  A mention of any company here does not imply our recommendation or endorsement, or that we know anything about the quality of the service they provide. In order to qualify for many grants, the new Feed-in Tariffs and the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive, both the installer and the installed technology must be accredited under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.

Devon Assocation for Renewable Energy (DARE) and Renewable Energy for Devon (RE4D) maintain lists of installers.  DARE's list indicates where installers are accredited for grants under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, and RE4D's where installers are certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. Neither independently accredit their lists, but are working on a programme of training and ensuring appropriate qualifications by technology.
YouGen is a Devon-based company which maintains a searchable database of suppliers, installers, consultants, architects, and enables customers to rate them.  The site is targeted at households, but many of the companies also work in other buildings.

Liability for VAT depends on e.g. whether the building is listed or not, or whether you are undertaking a replacement or alteration.
  • Diocesan guidance on Churches and VAT (pdf)
  • HM Revenue and Customs run a National Advice Line for general queries about VAT on 0845 010 9000

Note [3] Grants and funding

Grants for energy efficiency and renewables are available from a number of sources, including the Government, energy companies, and local organisations.
The Government is proposing moving away from grants for capital investment, to interest-free loans and payments for electricity and heat generated.  You will not necessarily be able to receive both grants and FITs/RHI, and we strongly recommend you check the guidance.
Regarding the timing of applying for grants and planning permission, granting bodies may:
  • provide the funds on application;
  • agree to provide the funds subject to planning permission being granted;
  • require planning permission to be granted pre-application.
Note [4] Consultation

We suggest that you consult as widely as possible, including the congregation and local community, and English Heritage, Dartmoor National Park, National Amenity Societies, etc as appropriate.

Note [5] Faculties, Planning permission and Listed building consent

It is a good idea to engage early with the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches (DAC) and your local planning authority.  The Diocesan guidance on Renewable technologies (pdf, 148k) provides general information on the issues DAC will be considering.  Informal advice from DAC and pre-application planning advice from the local planning authority are not mandatory but strongly recommended. Please check with the DAC if you think you might need a Faculty.  Note that DAC do not have the authority to grant the Faculty, but give advice to the Chancellor's office.  DAC's guidance on applying for Faculties covers the process, application forms, fees, how DAC can help you, and more.
  • A Faculty is required for works to church buildings, and structures in the curtilage not separately listed;
  • A Faculty and Listed building consent are required for works to buildings in the curtilage separately listed;
  • Listed building consent is required for works to listed halls, schools, clergy housing;
  • Planning permission is required for all external works;
  • Building regulations approval may be required for external or internal works, via the Building control department of the planning authority.
The Faculty form asks whether planning permission has already been sought. A Faculty is either not issued until planning permission is granted, or is conditional on planning permission.  Listed building consent is dealt with at the same time as planning permission, by the same planning officer.

Note that planning officers will check compliance with any conditions on the planning or listed building consent.

Note [6] End project

Please provide a case study for publication on this website, as part of celebrating your success, and to help others through the process.

Useful links

Renewable energy organisations in Devon
Government organisations
Government policy
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