Christian Aid have announced that over 5,500 churches and cathedrals in the UK are now operating on 100% renewable power, including Salisbury, Southwark, Liverpool and St Albans cathedrals.
How much energy do churches use?
In a word: loads. Solid brick walls, 50 ft ceilings, draughty doors and windows, no gas connection, and large cavernous rooms – the list goes on. If you had to design the least energy efficient structure imaginable, you’d be hard pushed to find something more perfect than an old British church.
Many churches are making big efforts to implement more efficient measures, ranging from swapping out convection heating for the much more appropriate infrared technology, all the way to installing solar panels. In 2016, Gloucester Cathedral installed 150 solar panels on their rooftop to help power their parish.
It’s estimated that these 5,500 UK churches switching over to renewable energy will see around £5m redirected from fossil fuel energy sources and into environmentally friendly options. Whatever your religious beliefs, this is good news for the UK renewable energy market.
Why have so many churches switched to renewable energy?
In recent years, the UK Christian community has done much to put climate change and the environment further up in their priorities. As the Church of England website states, “We believe that responding to climate change is an essential part of our responsibility to safeguard God’s creation.”
Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury and the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, said: “Climate change is one of the great moral challenges of our time and so it’s fantastic to see churches doing their bit to ensure they reduce their impact on the environment.”
There’s also the not-so-small matter of energy costs. As we mentioned, churches are incredibly difficult to heat and maintain from an energy perspective; the average energy bill for a UK church is around £1000 a year. While many people think of switching from traditional energy suppliers to renewable-only energy as an expensive option, this is not always true. Several organisations and campaigns have developed around the country in the last decade or so, dedicated to making it cheaper and easier for public buildings like churches to switch to more environmentally friendly options.
How have these churches switched to renewable energy?
There are a large number of organisations and campaigns that can be credited with encouraging such a large number of churches to make the switch. These have included the Big Church Switch campaign run by Christian Aid, and the Church of England’s Environment Programme, not to mention all the localised pushes by parish members who wish to worship in more environmentally conscious places.
Perhaps the biggest catalyst for change, however, have been organisations such as Parish Buying and 2buy2. These companies use the combined buying power of the church to negotiate competitive energy prices, often allowing the church to save money by switching to renewable-only suppliers with them. All contracts are professionally reviewed and managed centrally. As the Parish Buying say, “the vision to give churches back some time and money which can then be spent on mission within their communities: feeding the hungry, supporting the vulnerable, and sharing the good news.”