Making energy a priority in schools : an evaluation of the Queensland solar schools initiative
As Australia faces significant climate change, we as a nation are confronted by the challenge of how to rapidly adjust from a culture of excessive energy consumption and high greenhouse gas emissions to one of minimising our environmental footprint and achieving sustainability. A current example in Queensland is an initiative of the Queensland Department of Education, Training and the Arts. In that Department’s 2005-2006 Annual Report, the energy expenditure for the 2004-05 school year was just over AUD$21million. Students and staff consumed 335.6 Kilowatt hours of electricity per capita and produced an estimated 176 Kilotonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. The Department has made energy a priority area and supports several key Initiatives to help reduce energy consumption in schools. One major program in these Initiatives is the Queensland Solar Schools program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and state energy providers (see www.solarschools.net/qld/about.aspx). Under this Initiative seventy-eight state schools and seventeen non-state schools have received solar photovoltaic power systems. The purpose of this paper is to examine whether the installation of solar photovoltaic power systems is an effective catalyst for stimulating energy efficiency and energy conservation behaviours in schools. This is investigated by presenting data and findings from a mixed-methods program effects study of the Queensland Solar Schools Initiative. Evidence of energy efficiency measures and energy conservation behaviours being promoted and practiced in schools is provided by analysing survey responses collected from both solar schools and non-solar schools. The question of whether schools with solar photovoltaic installations come to view and use energy differently from schools without renewable energy technology is examined and contextualised within another program that sets out to achieve energy savings in schools – Energy Efficiency in Schools (kp.cqu.edu.au/research/results/eeis2003plain_english.htm).