Low Carbon Hub

1,343 t
Est. annual reduction in carbon
emissions (tonnes CO2 eq)

Our story

The Low Carbon Hub IPS (Industrial Provident Society) aims to develop a decentralised, locally-owned renewable energy infrastructure for Oxfordshire to put local power in the hands of local people. We do this by growing our own portfolio of community-owned renewable energy projects. No capital investment is required from our installation hosts (instead, we invite local people to invest in share offers to fund the projects, in return for a competitive interest rate, and they become Members of the IPS), there is minimal risk, and we sell the electricity generated to them for a lower cost - meaning they can reduce their energy bills too. These projects currently include roof-top solar PV arrays on schools, businesses and community buildings, as well as Sandford Hydro on the River Thames. We are also exploring ground mount solar sites. We developed People's Power Station to map all of these installations - as well as other renewable installations not owned by us, and energy efficiency projects in the county - to demonstrate the combined importance of these 'small-scale' community energy projects.

Surpluses from the Hub IPS (made through selling excess electricity generated to the grid) are passed to the Low Carbon Hub Community Interest Company to fund its community benefit projects and supporting activities, including offering grants to our 32 Community Members - low carbon community groups across Oxfordshire who choose to become part of the CIC.

We also provide practical support to communities, businesses, and individuals through our Helpdesk, allowing us to answer queries and offer our advice and support to others in the sector.

Alongside our renewable installations, we also work across several programmes focused on energy - both powering down to reduce demand and powering up to increase renewable generation. This includes Project LEO, an ambitious £40 million project bringing several partners together to conduct real-world trials on the electricity system, aiming to understand opportunities for a smarter, more flexible system, as well as uncover where local energy fits in. Our existing Low Carbon Hub renewable installations are being used in these trials.

We have two programmes working to increase the uptake of energy efficiency work by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Oxfordshire, who represent a large amount of buildings, but often don't have the money or know-how to focus on improving energy efficiency - OxFutures and Energy Solutions Oxfordshire. We are also a partner on Cosy Homes Oxfordshire, a one-stop home retrofit service to reduce the energy usage of homes across Oxfordshire. We work with Ashden to deliver LESS CO2 in Oxfordshire, a sustainability programme for schools. We are also part of Next Generation, a fund to develop new decentralised, decarbonised, and democratised energy business models.

What have you learnt that others will find most useful?

  • The importance of developing networks and working collaboratively - all of our projects and programmes rely on collaborating with other partners who are experts in their areas, and we've also effectively integrated with low carbon community groups across Oxfordshire to share learnings.
  • The value of learning by doing - something we're still embodying now through the Project LEO smart-grid trials.
  • How important our investor members are in order to ensure we have the capital needed for installations. These are long-term relationships which need nurturing, as we find many of our investors will invest multiple times, and so we have needed to keep improving how we communicate with our investors and listen to them.
  • Ditto 3 but with our community group members (shareholders in the CIC), and how over time we've developed this into a reciprocal relationship through being able to offer them grants and advice from our journey.

Measures of success?

We measure against 4 sets of metrics: Planet, People, Prosperity and Perception. We produce a social impact report annually, which details how we are performing in each of these areas. The latest report can be viewed on our website, here: https://www.lowcarbonhub.org/about/our-impact/

Read more: http://www.lowcarbonhub.org

Tabitha Whiting
Low Carbon Hub