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Start With Renewables at Local Level, say Low Carbon Hub



Low Carbon Hub is thinks a more local approach to energy is possible in Oxfordshire and the UK. The social enterprise, who are based in Oxford, think that using renewables in local areas could have a positive knock on effect to the rest of the country. To help raise funds for their inspiring vision, Low Carbon Hub is inviting investment in 19 new community energy projects.

The Low Carbon Hub Community Energy Manifesto, published this week, sets out their vision for a decentralised energy system for Oxfordshire, which is to be powered by small scale, community-controlled renewable energy schemes, and to be connected by a series of smart micro grids.

The team’s new share offer will finance their biggest community energy project to date – a 440 kilowatt (kW) hydro project at Sandford Lock just outside Oxford – as well as a portfolio of 18 solar PV projects on schools and businesses all across Oxfordshire. These 19 projects are some of the last community energy projects in the UK to have secured the pre-September 2015 Feed-in Tariff rate.

With a minimum investment of £250, a maximum of £100,000 and projected returns of 5 per cent, Low Carbon Hub aims to attract both small and large investors to their community benefit society, and both individuals and institutions.

Investors in Sandford Lock Hydro will help return the Lasher Weir to its historic role as a provider of clean energy and power the equivalent of 450 homes – or most of Sandford. The 18 solar PV projects will generate clean electricity on unused roof space, for both the hosts and the national grid. With these new projects included, Low Carbon Hub’s total ‘start-up’ portfolio will save 2,344 tonnes of CO2 every year, and contribute enough clean electricity to power 1321 houses.

Low Carbon Hub is three years into their plan to develop a ‘people-centred’ model of energy generation in Oxfordshire. Their past projects have included the UK’s largest community-owned rooftop solar installation (on Norbar Torque Tools in Banbury), the largest solar installation on an Oxfordshire primary school (at Orchard Fields Community School) and a pathfinding solar PV partnership with Oxford Bus Company that contributed £12,000 in community benefit funds in its first year to an insulation project in nearby Barton.

Every year, Oxfordshire spends about £1.5 billion on energy. That is roughly 10 per cent of the region’s GDP. Almost all of that money flows out of the local economy to the big energy companies that are now mainly owned by foreign companies. Many of the power stations feeding this system are coming to the end of their life, including Didcot power station in Oxfordshire.

Replacing this old infrastructure with a more decentralised system run through social enterprises would keep ownership and revenues from energy generation in local economies, supporting local jobs and the low carbon economy.

Dr Barbara Hammond MBE CEO of Low Carbon Hub, said: “Given the changes in government policy over the last year, we at Low Carbon Hub have had to be very light on our feet and work incredibly hard to secure the pipeline of 19 projects funded by our current share offer.

“With these projects we will be increasing our asset base by 400 per cent and guaranteeing we can have a real impact over the next 20 years, through the deployment of over £3.5 million of community benefit funds the projects will generate.

“We would like as many local people as possible to benefit from community-owned renewable energy in Oxfordshire. Investing in this share offer is an opportunity to do that, while also helping to shape Oxfordshire’s energy future.”

Low Carbon Hub has set out their vision for the use of their £3.5 million community benefit fund in the Low Carbon Hub Community Energy Manifesto. The chapter ‘10- points for change’ outlines what the community energy sector needs from Government to meet the commitments the UK made in Paris last year.

To see projects to be funded by this share offer, or to invest in it yourself, visit the website. Investments are via Ethex, the positive investment platform.

Jonathon Porritt CBE, Co-founder of Forum for the Future said: “Low Carbon Hub in Oxford is one of the most important community energy organisations in the UK. It’s poised to start a real revolution in the way we develop and use our energy.”


Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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