Leisure Centres and Solar – Funding the Future of Community Facilities
Leisure centres are often at the very heart of our communities. They provide a chance for us to focus on fitness and wellbeing and in many cases, leisure centres include a pool. This gives people the opportunity to learn to swim, to get involved in swimming classes, or to make time for a sport that can be both relaxing and invigorating for all ages.
However, if you think about how much energy it takes to operate a leisure centre with a pool, you’re probably right in imagining it doesn’t come cheap.
Counting the cost
Last year, the Local Government Chronicle reported that the Local Government Association and UK Active, (a group committed to getting “more people more active more often”), received “significant anecdotal information” from councils and providers that the energy issue is “driving decisions about facility closures or reduced opening hours”.
A survey of its members revealed the average energy bill was £3.2m in 2022. This represents a 113% increase compared to the £1.5m average cost for each Centre in 2019. 2023 costs are predicted to escalate to at least £3.3m, so what does this mean for the future of these facilities?
Financing the future
Back in the Spring, the Chancellor announced the Swimming Pool Support Fund (SPSF), making £60 million available to support facilities with swimming pools. The funding was split into two phases. Phase I offered £20 million of revenue for facilities facing increased cost pressures which left them vulnerable to closure or significant service reduction. Monies from this phase have been allocated in full.
The second phase allocates £40 million in capital investment to improve the energy efficiency of public facilities with pools, in the medium to long term. Allocation of these funds will be confirmed by the end of January 2024. Applications closed in late October.
Sport England also made £20m of Lottery funding available to complement the government’s £40m capital fund, increasing the number of facilities benefiting from these improvements. They are administering the fund too.
At Joju, we’ve been helping leisure centres install solar for several years now, to improve energy efficiency and cut operational energy costs. We’ve supported leisure centres all across the UK, including Godalming Leisure Centre, Xcel Leisure Centre and Bridport Leisure Centre .
If you’ve received, or are about to receive, funding from the Swimming Pool Support Fund and are looking for ways to improve the energy efficiency of your leisure centre building, do let us know. We’re experts at working with public sector organisations and when it comes to the installation of solar on leisure centres, we have the experience to make the whole process hassle free from beginning to end.
As well as design and installation expertise, we understand how important it is for the Centre to remain open, as normal, throughout the project. The way we manage every installation always makes sure this is the case.
If you discover your leisure centre hasn’t been successful in the application for funding, all is not lost. When it comes to improving energy efficiency, cutting costs, and reducing carbon, we’ve been helping community buildings fund solar in a different way for many years. In fact, we helped develop community energy schemes, having installed the very first community-funded installation in Oxford in 2008.
A community energy approach means clean generation is owned by, and benefits, the local community. It’s the way Bridport Leisure Centre’s solar array was funded and at Joju, we’re incredibly experienced and well connected within the community energy sector. There’s no-one better placed to explore the funding of your solar project in this way, meaning you won’t pay a penny. You can read more about our community energy experience and find out more detail about community energy schemes, here.
A bright future?
All in all, when it comes to funding solar energy on leisure centres, the future can certainly be bright! The SPSF will deliver more support for solar to reduce costs through clean, green energy created by the sun.
Community energy could also help to support your plans, if you’re a council or leisure centre who has not had government or Sport England funding awarded to you.
For a chat about how we could help your Leisure Centre work towards a brighter funded future, please do get in touch.