Standing over two metres with a stern, chiselled visage, Petr Červený is at first glance the prototypical school administrator. But like the most intimidating of educators, the features soften on the vice principal for the Volyně technical school in southern Bohemia when Mr. Červený speaks of his students’ success. “Our focus on manufacturing and working with wood provides students a unique education and plenty of job opportunities.”

As glowing of the youth under his tutelage, Mr. Červený is also effusive in his praise for the buildings in the Volyně school system, which since 2010 have been powered by renewable energy.

Originally heated by a polluting coal boiler, with a grant from the EU budget the district was able to switch heating sources in the buildings to one powered by locally-sourced wood chips. Together with an energy-efficient heat pump and deep building retrofits, the EU budget was essential to saving both the school money on its energy bills and the students housed in dormitories on tuition fees.

But not only did the energy switch make sense from an environmental and economic perspective, as Mr. Červený – ever the educator – likes to explain, from an pedagogical perspective as well.

“Not only did the boiler save us money, but it is also a real hands-on teaching tool.”