OXFORD’S Low Carbon Hub has received government backing to trial solutions on how to encourage the take-up of energy efficiency schemes by small and medium enterprises.

The hub, which runs hydro power schemes at Osney and Sandford locks, will be working with EnergyPro Limited and the Oxford Brookes University Environmental Information Exchange team to bring a new service to Oxfordshire.

This will be designed to help local enterprises in the county to undertake energy efficiency work, without having to worry about financial risk.

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In Oxford, buildings are responsible for the largest proportion of annual carbon emissions, as outlined in the Oxford’s Citizen’s Assembly on Climate Change in September last year.

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A city council report said: “The buildings sector should adopt improved building standards, widespread retrofitting, with more domestic and non-domestic energy needs being met by sustainable sources.”

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According to the hub, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are often keen to undertake energy efficiency work, but struggle to find the time outside of their day-to-day activities and have concerns about upfront costs.

The new project aims to make things simple, and to remove financial risk with finance opportunities and guaranteed savings.

The activity in Oxfordshire forms part of a wider project, led by EnergyPro.

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Barbara Hammond MBE, CEO of Low Carbon Hub, said: “To drastically reduce our carbon emissions, we must quickly address the high energy usage of our buildings – increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy demand.

"We are thrilled to be a partner on this innovative project, supporting Oxfordshire SMEs to implement energy efficiency measures, reducing their costs and carbon emissions.”

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EnergyPro believes that the best way to engage SMEs with energy efficiency work is through trusted, local support – equipping local community-based organisations with the knowledge and tools to deliver energy efficiency projects for SMEs, based on internationally established good practice. EnergyPro is working to develop this toolkit, or ‘operating system’, with the aim of rolling it out on a national scale.

Oxfordshire will be the pilot area, which is where the Low Carbon Hub comes in – supporting delivery.

This will involve the creation of a new company in Oxfordshire during 2020, a Community Energy Service Company (CESCO), hosted by the Low Carbon Hub, which will begin serving local SMEs immediately.

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This CESCO will help businesses to identify areas where they could improve energy efficiency, and therefore cut their energy costs – led by the team at Oxford Brookes University.

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It will also deliver these measures, using tried and tested installers, with financing options available for SMEs who do not have available capital, and measure and verify the savings created by these measures.

If successful, EnergyPro ultimately plans to license this ‘operating system’ to community-based organisations in communities across the UK who can serve SMEs in their local area.

This will create a national network of ‘one-stop-shops’, supporting SMEs with energy efficiency.

EnergyPro is the lead partner on the project, developing the ‘operating system’ and acting as franchisor for this system.

Alex Rathmell, managing director of EnergyPro, said: “This business model aims to prove that a local, trusted organisation can successfully deliver energy efficiency services to SMEs provided they are equipped with the right toolkit - standardised project development process, vetted technology partners and contractor, guaranteed savings and suitable finance.”

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The Low Carbon Hub team will be working closely with EnergyPro, rolling out the business model in Oxfordshire as the first franchisee of the project.

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Oxford Brookes University’s Environmental Information Exchange (EiE) will support the development of the service in Oxfordshire, providing energy auditing, feasibility, and project management. Michael Esvelt, EiE Operations Director at Oxford Brookes University, said: “The innovation we’re exploring in this project uses expert knowledge of solutions that payback quickly, introduce innovative sources of finance, and relies on robust evidence so energy savings are clear.”

The project forms part of the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s Boosting Access for SMEs to Energy Efficiency (BASEE) competition for £6m of funding.

See lowcarbonhub.org.