Nicole Lazarus explains how One Planet Oxfordshire is bringing together people and organisations from across the county to plan for a better, more sustainable future
The Oxfutures project aims to build new business models for local green energy generation and for energy-saving services – to help ensure a sustainable, profitable future for the county.
Bioregional is taking part in this ambitious three-year venture to fuel low-carbon economic development across Oxfordshire. The project is being orchestrated by the social enterprise Low Carbon Hub (LCH), which develops community-owned renewable energy projects in the region. Bioregional has joined forces with both of Oxford's universities, Oxford City and Cherwell District Councils and LCH – all leading low-carbon players in the area – to deliver the project.
The Scheme has been awarded £1.6m of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This will be used to work with Oxfordshire’s rich base of low-carbon businesses, to build new knowledge and develop new low-carbon products and services. It will assist with the start-up of new low-carbon social enterprises and boost the green economy so that more of the £1.5bn that Oxfordshire spends on energy each year stays in the county.
Bioregional’s contribution to the scheme is three pronged and builds upon pioneering work we have already been doing in the region.
One of the project’s priorities is to gather, mix and share low-carbon knowhow in collaboration with Cherwell District Council by developing Oxfordshire GreenTech. This is a forum where businesses and social enterprises providing the solutions, products and services we need for a zero-carbon future, can come together, share experiences and create new opportunities with each other.
Oxfutures will offer small to medium enterprises (SMEs) free energy audits, specialist advice and even funding for new start-ups or new products and services. Cutting edge Oxfutures research conducted by the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University will be shared with Greentech users through workshops and collaborative sessions.
As part of Oxfutures, Bioregional will also deploy our data-driven energy demand mapping tool (Local Energy Mapping for Urban Retrofit – LEMUR) to build a model of household energy demands across the county. LEMUR identifies streets and neighbourhoods suitable for particular energy saving measures so that retrofit programmes can be targeted accordingly. Created by Bioregional and Oxford Brookes University, this innovative masterplanning process integrates energy and built environment data with social and community-collected personalised data.
The LEMUR process was originally piloted in Bicester, Oxfordshire in 2015 and over the next year will be extended across the county. The resulting database of areas in need of retrofit will, once completed, be a low-cost resource for community groups, local authorities, researchers and retrofit providers alike.
Bioregional will continue its award-winning work on Project ERIC (Energy Resources for Integrated Communities). Now in its third year, this is an initiative bringing solar PV power and smart battery storage to 82 homes (74 of which are social housing), a school and a community centre in the Rose Hill Neighbourhood. Working in collaboration with local residents, with the low-carbon community group and with the city council, Bioregional will develop a new business model for community owned generation in the neighbourhood.
Nicole Lazarus, Bioregional’s Oxfordshire Programme Manager, said:
“We are thrilled to be working with such an inspiring team of partners on the Oxfutures project. There is a real swell of ideas, knowledge and action in Oxfordshire, with innovative new enterprises committed to transforming how we access and use energy.
"Thanks to funding from ERDF we have an opportunity to build on this and create new solutions and green jobs, cut carbon and fuel poverty, and really show how sustainability and green energy solutions are not only better for the environment but can drive the economy forward. Hopefully the results we achieve in Oxfordshire will serve to inspire similar action across the country.”