Project Local Energy Oxfordshire (LEO) is exploring how growth in local renewables, electric vehicles, battery storage, and vehicle-to-grid technology can be supported by a local, flexible, and responsive electricity grid. It is a collaboration of partners from the commercial, academic, local government sectors and leading energy social enterprise, The Low Carbon Hub.
Described as “one of the most ambitious, wide-ranging, innovative, and holistic smart grid trials ever conducted in the UK”, we collect evidence on the technological, market, and social conditions needed for greener, more flexible, and fairer electricity systems. Our trials include those focused at the ‘edge’ of the network – the closest point to where people are using energy.
Project LEO is partly funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund: Prospering from the Energy Revolution (PFER) programme – a £102.5m fund for UK industry and research to develop systems that support the global move to renewable energy. We were awarded £15M in a bid led by the Low Carbon Hub, Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), and the University of Oxford, with a further £26M invested by project partners. Our project partners include Oxford City Council, EDF Energy, Oxford Brookes University, Oxfordshire County Council, Nuvve, Piclo, and Origami Energy.
Our trials fall into two broad categories. The first group is Smart and Fair Neighbourhood (SFN) trials. These look at how communities across Oxfordshire could benefit from being part of a local smart grid. Examples include managing demand for electric vehicle charging in urban areas and decarbonising rural communities. The second category is Energy Asset Trials. These explore ways we can better harness renewable energy assets like solar farms, batteries, and hydropower to deliver energy flexibly so it can respond quickly and efficiently to support the needs of the local energy network.
Project LEO is also coming together with SSEN partner project TRANSITION to trial a new marketplace for trading energy flexibility services, as well as energy capacity (export or import) between peers connected at the same point in the network. This will test new platforms, tools, commercial approaches, value propositions, and technologies to support the delivery of a range of flexibility services supporting the local network. An efficient marketplace will help us to maximise the use of existing energy assets as well as the addition of new renewable assets to the network.
All of our case studies are published on our website, and we work closely with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to share our learnings, as well as partnering with global organisations and educational institutions. Recently, we were fortunate to have a strong presence at COP26 to talk about the project and launch the International Community of Local Smart Grids.
Project LEO benefits from the close collaboration between our diverse range of partners.
Energy flexibility is everywhere – Take a look around you and you will see the potential for energy flexibility everywhere. To be flexible, a generation asset or your energy demand just needs to be turned up or down temporarily, following a request from the network operator. This could mean turning down chillers in a factory for a short period, rethinking when you charge your or dispatching energy from a battery to the grid.
Power to the people – The challenge is harnessing all this potential flexibility and communicating and engaging with businesses and communities in ways they understand, as well as offering value propositions that are meaningful for them.