St George’s, Belfast

St George’s parish, Belfast, has reduced its CO2 emissions by over 12 tonnes per year by switching its heating system from oil to natural gas, by installing photovoltaic panels on its roof and by buying electricity from a green supplier.

Douglas McIldoon, St George’s eco-congregation co-ordinator, has sent us this report:

In the middle of 2009 St George's Church of Ireland parish in the centre of Belfast decided that the next stage in our environmental strategy would be to seek a green electricity supplier. However, we also wanted to explore the possible financial advantages of opting for a two-part tariff which offered lower priced electricity at night and at the weekend in exchange for slightly dearer electricity during weekdays.

Photovoltaic panels on the roof of St George'sThe church and the parish hall, offices and kitchen are all on the same meter and, while it seemed probable that we used more electricity at night and during Saturday and Sunday, at the time we made our decision we did not know for certain that this was the case. We started to keep a record of the electricity we used and we discovered that we did indeed use more electricity at the weekends and at night, though the result for the summer months was affected by the output of our photovoltaic panels, which produce most of their output during these months.

Finding a supplier that offered both green electricity and the two-part tariff we were seeking was simple. The one that fully met our requirements was ESB Independent Energy.

2010 was the first year for which we had a full set of data. It turned out we used more electricity at nights and weekends than during the day. This meant that our bill for the year was only about 80% of what it would have been if we had stayed with our original tariff.

In addition, by switching to a green supplier we avoided the emission of over 12 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and this will continue into the future so long as we stay with a green supplier.

The first step in reducing our parish's carbon dioxide emissions was by changing our heating system from oil to natural gas; the second was to install 3 kws of photovoltaics to generate some of our electricity. Buying our electricity from a green supplier has been the third strand.

We now need to find a fourth strand. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

~ Douglas McIldoon