The Community Energy Fortnight hopes to raise awareness of renewable energy projects this September. As part of the national event, the Low Carbon Hub – a social enterprise in Oxford working with key stakeholders to lower carbon emissions and develop renewable, community-driven energy projects –are launching a share offer for a new wave of community-owned renewable energy projects for Oxfordshire.
Adriano Figueiredo, operations director at the Low Carbon Hub, tells Blue & Green Tomorrow more about the organisation and its aims.
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Tell us a bit more about your organisation?
The Low Carbon Hub is an Oxford-based social enterprise that works to lower carbon emissions by developing both renewable energy projects and community energy reduction projects. We work with businesses, the public sector and communities and are currently scaling up our work across Oxfordshire. We are launching a community share offer that will fund 1MW of renewable energy projects, including solar panels on 18 Oxfordshire schools and solar PV installations on a number of local businesses.
What excites you about community energy?
Firstly community energy, like the projects developed by the Low Carbon Hub, have the potential to create a new, decentralised energy system that’s all about local ownership, not centralised control.
And secondly, the way the Low Carbon Hub is developing community energy in Oxfordshire is exciting as it is a win-win for all. When we install solar panels on a school or business they get discounted energy and make valuable cuts to their CO2 emissions, those who have bought shares in the scheme receive a good return on their investment and a stake in local energy generation, and the Low Carbon Hub receives an income stream, which is used to support community energy projects across Oxfordshire. The fact that everyone benefits is what makes the way we develop community energy projects a truly workable model.
What is the biggest challenge in scaling up community energy across the UK?
It is a two-pronged challenge. One of the biggest challenges is skilling-up communities to get projects off the ground. And the second key challenge is having the right government infrastructure and incentives to allow community energy to flourish. Having said that, Oxford is one of the regions where there has been a huge amount of support for community energy projects and we hope that other areas in the UK will follow suit.
What is your vision for community energy in the UK?
We want to see a future where our rooftops, woodlands and rivers are the UK’s power stations. We want to see local power is in the hands of local people, rather than being run by a centralised, fossil fuel-based energy system. And we want to see communities reaping the social, economic and environmental benefits of a of this clean energy system.
Would you encourage others to get involved in community energy?
Yes! We want to position Oxfordshire at the forefront of low carbon innovation and would love to see our work replicated across the UK. We want people to be inspired by the Low Carbon Hub model and others like it and to be a big part of the UK’s transition to a sustainable energy future.
The Community Energy Coalition (CEC) formed in 2011 and runs the Community Energy Fortnight.
The CEC is made up of 36 members, from of a wide range of organisations and charities, including Forum for the Future, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Co-operative Energy.
The fortnight hopes to inspire and educate people about the benefits of clean, green energy and encourages community groups to set up their own projects.
The public can see renewable energy projects close up with a variety of events and open days held across the UK from September 13–28.
Photo source: Forum for the future