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Zoë Toone: Catalysing A Low Carbon Economy


The way we power our lives must change. And here in Oxfordshire, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the OxFutures project are showing the world how it’s done.

The Low Carbon Hub is an environmental social enterprise that’s out to prove we can meet our energy needs in a way that’s good for people and the planet. Our ambition is for the whole of Oxfordshire to be powered by an interconnected series of smart micro-grids centred around multiple small-scaled, community-controlled renewable energy schemes.

Low Carbon Hub is at the heart of a collective effort to catalyse a low carbon economy in Oxfordshire, both through powering down to decrease energy demand and through powering up to increase renewable energy supply.

Our OxFutures Programme falls into the powering down category as it is a programme that offers free energy audits to SMEs in Oxfordshire to identify energy-saving opportunities, to reduce energy bills and cut carbon emissions.

OxFutures began as a £3.2m three-year programme, led by the Low Carbon Hub, to boost low carbon economic development in Oxfordshire.  It is supported by the European Regional Development Fund and has been delivered by a collaborative partnership between the Low Carbon Hub, Oxford City Council, the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, Cherwell District Council and Bioregional.

Phase 2 of the programme allowed funding for three years (until 2020). Our colleagues at Oxford Brookes carried out the audits and generated a comprehensive report which recommended measures organisations could take. These measures ranged from being low-cost and quick to implement to more costly measures such as solar panels. We had grants available which then part-funded the implementation of the measures recommended by the audit.

The programme also fosters innovation by encouraging knowledge sharing between academics, local authorities and SMEs and providing grant support for new low-carbon start-ups, and those developing new low-carbon products and technologies.

Earlier this year we received the exciting news that a three-year extension to the OxFutures programme had been approved and, as a result, we can continue this great work through to 2023.

The extension is being continued by partners, Low Carbon Hub and Oxford Brookes, who will deliver 45 additional energy efficiency audits for SMEs. New feasibility and implementation grants to support innovation business, product, and service ideas are also available. 

Everybody involved in the programme is incredibly proud of all that has been achieved so far and what promises to be achieved throughout the next three years. Specifically, from the Low Carbon Hub perspective, one of the most important things about the OxFutures programme is the pathway it has opened for more Low Carbon Hub Programmes. Project LEO, Cosy Homes Oxfordshire, and Energy Solutions Oxfordshire have all benefited from the invaluable experience gained through the creation and development of OxFutures and without it these initiatives wouldn’t have happened.

So far, OxFutures has delivered energy audits to over 140 businesses, and funded 28 of them, improving their competitiveness and reducing their energy bills and CO2 emissions. A further 14 innovation companies have received funding to boost Oxfordshire’s development as a UK leader in the new low carbon economy. Knowledge sharing in the sector is incredibly important and has been strengthened with the establishment of a new network, Oxfordshire Greentech.

Examples of the different organisations that OxFutures has helped include:

Zoë is the Marketing Coordinator at Low Carbon Hub. She graduated in 2016 with a BA Hons degree in Geography from Lancaster University and has since spent time working in Yorkshire, travelling in South East Asia, studying in China, and working for a Chinese university. Since joining the Low Carbon Hub in 2019 Zoe has worked on a marketing and communication for several of their programmes including OxFutures, LESS CO2, People’s Power Station, and Project LEO.

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