The OxFutures initiative is mobilising large-scale investment to develop renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the city of Oxford and Oxfordshire county.
The aim is to position Oxfordshire at the forefront of low carbon innovation and lead on the UK’s transition to a sustainable energy future. OxFutures has been kick-started by a grant from Intelligent Energy Europe to leverage investment of £20 million into local energy projects by 2016. It covers 75% of the costs towards a £1.3m programme to mobilise local energy infrastructure. The funded period started on 28th November 2012 and lasts for three years and has the following key targets:
The vision is for the River Thames and the rooftops of Oxfordshire to be the power stations of the future. Communities, businesses and the public sector will “power up” by developing renewable energy schemes and “power down” by reducing energy use. This is supposed deliver many economic, social and environmental benefits for Oxfordshire.
Local community interest social company “Low Carbon Hub” is the major partner to the two councils in delivering the four programme strands:
The aim is to make low carbon economic development mainstream and to bring £400 million of investment into Oxfordshire by 2020. OxFutures will secure the City of Oxford’s target to reduce its carbon emissions by 40% by 2020, and to reach the Oxfordshire County Council target of a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, based on 2008 levels.
The OxFutures initiative works as an umbrella programme, mainly for renewable energy projects. The Local Energy Hub acts as program delivery unit (PDU) to identify, accompany and kick-start renewable energy projects.
The main focus is mid-sized micro-hydro projects on the River Thames and urban PV solar projects on roofs of public buildings (mainly schools), community infrastructure and businesses.
The programme consists of two main axes:
The Low Carbon Hub works with businesses, the public sector and communities to scale up renewable energy generation across Oxfordshire. It works like this:
When financing projects, often the initial financing comes from a classical source (e.g. bank loan in the case of the Osney Hydro Lock project or a revolving facility from the Oxford City Council in the case of the Norbar Torque Tools PV project) and is than (partially) replaced by a community share offer underwriting.
In other cases projects are financed through ECO/Green Deal or Salix funds.
The Low Carbon Hub is a social enterprise that employs 12 people, set-up to work with 300 communities. It acts as marketer, facilitator, financial advisor and financier of the renewable energy projects.
The Low Carbon Hub comprises two organisations working in cooperation: the Low Carbon Hub Industrial and Provident Society (Low Carbon Hub IPS) and the Low Carbon Hub Community Interest Company (Low Carbon Hub CIC). Surpluses from the Hub IPS are passed to the Hub CIC to fund its work on community energy projects.
Low carbon hub IPS
The purpose of the Low Carbon Hub IPS is to develop a decentralised, locally-owned renewable energy infrastructure for Oxfordshire to put local power in the hands of local people. They do this by developing their own portfolio of renewable energy projects with businesses, schools and public sector partners. No capital investment is required from their partners. Projects include roof-top, ground-mounted and canopy solar photovoltaic installations (solar PV), micro-hydro schemes, and biomass. The Low Carbon Hub IPS raises the investment and is the owner of these energy generation assets. Surpluses from the Hub IPS are passed to the Hub CIC to fund its community benefit projects and supporting activities. An example of a Low Carbon Hub IPS project is the solar PV installation on Oxford Bus Company’s depot in Cowley.
Low carbon hub CIC
The purpose of the Low Carbon Hub CIC is to deliver community benefit and provide practical support to communities to develop their own renewable energy projects on community assets. The projects provide cheaper electricity, an income for the local community and opportunities for local people to invest. The Hub team supports community volunteers through the complex process of setting up a social enterprise, developing their project, getting the project to investment-readiness and raising necessary finance. The process normally results in a local share-offer in which citizens can invest. Surpluses from community-owned enterprises are reinvested into further locally-managed carbon reduction projects. An example of a Low Carbon Hub CIC-supported project is Osney Lock Hydro in West Oxford.
In addition, the CIC is developing innovative low-carbon energy services and business models for communities to improve our renewable energy infrastructure. A part of the work of the CIC is influencing key stakeholders to create a supportive operating environment for community energy.
23 community group partners have a shareholding in the CIC to ensure their operation is totally transparent and is guided by those it is set up to serve. One community member is on their board of directors.
The Low Carbon Hub raised over 1.6 million £ (over an initial target of 1,5 million £) through a community share offer in autumn 2014 to develop 1MW of solar PV on local schools and businesses. This attracted 345 investors.
Contact : Mairi Brooks
Tel +44 (0) 1865 252212