£40 million project to kickstart a renewable energy revolution

05 April 2019

Tom Tower01
© Oxford Cityphotos

A number of groundbreaking renewable energy schemes are to be rolled out in Oxfordshire thanks to a partnership between the UK government, private energy companies, local authorities and Oxford researchers including Professor Malcolm McCulloch of the Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy.

The £40 million initiative, called Project LEO (Local Energy Oxfordshire), has been awarded £13.8 million from the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge fund, as part of a drive to bring together businesses and leading researchers to transform the way energy is delivered and used. It will trial a new ‘smart grid’ model balancing local demand with local supply, and explore how this can support growth in local renewables, electric vehicles (EVs), battery storage, and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.

This and three other demonstrator projects also receiving government funding will show how businesses can develop local energy approaches at scale that will create better outcomes for consumers and promote economic growth for the UK. By the early 2020s, these projects aim to prove that smarter local energy systems can deliver cleaner and cheaper energy services.

Project LEO is a partnership between Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and a number of local partners including the University of Oxford and will focus on small-scale electricity generation effectively distributed through a decentralised ‘smart’ grid - an approach known as the Distribution System Operator model. Set to run for three years, the project will balance local energy demand with local energy supply and generation, helping to test markets, inform investment models and, ultimately, assess the benefits.

There are around 90 local low carbon energy projects which could become part of the distribution network during this time. Priority projects will include a community hydro project, an electric vehicle transport hub and heat network proposals.

Mc Culloch Malcolm

“This revolutionary project will lead the world in developing new value streams from local energy assets using local markets. It will transform new thinking in the future of energy systems to a reality and will crystallise large scale investment. This will enable a significant deployment of clean energy resources in Oxfordshire and enable end users to have a lower cost, secure energy supply.”

– Professor Malcolm McCulloch
Claire Perry

“We are at the start of a green revolution, as we move to more digital, data-driven smart systems that will bring us cleaner and cheaper energy. These projects, backed by government funding, are set to spark a transformation and change the way we interact with energy for the better as part of our modern Industrial Strategy. We’re excited to see how these businesses and project partners reveal how innovative tech, such as energy storage, heat networks and electric vehicles, can set us on the path to a smarter energy future. This is tomorrow’s world, today.”

– Claire Perry, Energy and Clean Growth Minister

Project LEO is one of four smart energy systems demonstrator projects that were funded by the government this week. The £13.8m of funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge fund, managed by Innovate UK, is supported by £26m of private funding from the project partners. The project is being led by SSEN with EDF Energy, Nuuve, Open Utility, Origami Energy, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, The Low Carbon Hub C.I.C. and the University of Oxford.