Newport City Council & Surple

With a population of approximately 150,000, Newport is the third-largest city in Wales. It famously hosted the illustrious Ryder Cup in 2010 and welcomed world leaders for the NATO Summit in 2014. In 2016, Newport City Council spent £4.1 million on energy and water. Of this, the schools in the region accounted for approximately £1.7 million. Like other local authorities in Wales, Newport has an energy-saving SLA in place with many schools in the area. As a result, energy management in some of the schools has not been a priority for building users. 

The Challenge

At the beginning of 2019, Newport’s energy management team consisted of two people. They were Ross Cudlipp, the Energy and Sustainability Manager, and the Carbon Reduction Officer, Jonathan Morgan. The pair were responsible for managing energy across hundreds of council-owned sites. If they were lucky, they’d find time to visit each school once a year. It was during these visits they would identify and correct any energy-related issues. Welsh Government has set ambitious targets for the public sector to be carbon neutral by 2030, meaning energy reduction in these schools is a top priority. With a demanding job on their hands and overstretched resources, Newport’s energy management team questioned whether there was a better solution for reducing energy use in the buildings.

Ross and Jonathan suggested that the key to reducing the energy consumption of the schools involved engaging the actual building users who had more control over the day-to-day operations. They decided that they would provide individuals in the schools with a tool that could help achieve this.

The Solution

Newport’s energy management team set out to find a product that would help them to achieve their goals. They needed something that would allow the schools to view their electricity, gas and water use and notify them of unexpected consumption. They also wanted the users to have the ability to communicate maintenance issues back to the energy management team in a streamlined manner.

It soon became clear that the learning curve would be too steep for the schools to adopt and use the majority of energy management solutions on the market effectively. However, the team then found Surple. They were impressed with the product’s usability and functionality, so decided to give it a try.

Newport City Council ran a six-week pilot project with five primary schools. The team provided Surple to headteachers and caretakers within the schools. They explained to the schools that it was their responsibility to monitor their energy data using Surple’s analytical tools. They also told them that if they came across any site issues, they should submit them through Surple. They hoped that Surple’s breadth of features would streamline their workflow and encourage the schools to take more responsibility for their energy usage.

The Results

Increased visibility of the school’s utility consumption and a direct communication channel between the schools and the energy management team resulted in the identification of various energy-related issues.

Water savings of £21,490 a year

As an incentive for taking part in the project, the schools had new automatic water meters installed. Importing the water data into Surple allowed the council to monitor the school’s water consumption for the first time. Using Surple’s analytical tools, they uncovered several water leaks across the project sites. Jonathan immediately set to work repairing them. If left untreated, the leaks would have resulted in 7,323,360 litres of waste each year. Fixing them when they did will save the council £21,490.25 on their water bills each year.

Optimised heating controls

In one school, a caretaker used Surple to submit an Issue to the energy management team because the building temperature was too high. As soon as this happened, Jonathan received an email notification, alerting him of the issue. He had a conversation with the caretaker using Surple’s Communications feature, which prompted him to lower the building temperature. Without this project, the problem wouldn’t have been reported, which would’ve cost the council thousands.

demonstration of how the Surple communications fearture was used in the Newport City Council case study
Demonstration of how the Surple communications feature was used in the Newport City Council case study

Identification of broken equipment

During the early stages of the project, Jonathan identified that one school had unusually high energy consumption at night when the building was empty and not in use. He could see the exact moment where this increase had occurred and that it had been like it for the past few months. Through Surple, he was able to share the chart that displayed the out of character usage with the school’s headteacher. After a quick conversation, they concluded that there was a fault with the car park lighting timer. This meant that the lights had been left on overnight unintentionally for a period of a few months, costing the council hundreds of pounds. Jonathan had a new, working timer installed. A few days later, using Surple’s Interventions feature, he reviewed the impact of replacing the timer and saw that the energy consumption had returned to normal.

The team at Surple have been great to work with, and their simple software solution is something that would improve any organisation’s strategy towards energy efficiency.

Ross Cudlipp
Energy & Sustainability Manager

Although this pilot project only included five schools and ran for a limited period, it was responsible for significant energy savings. After realising the savings-potential of the whole organisation, the council increased the size of its energy management team. Surple has become Newport City Council’s principal energy analytics partner, working closely with the organisation to build the most usable, flexible and functional product on the market. To this day, the Surple team continue to introduce new features suggested by the council’s energy management team to help them reach their energy efficiency goals.