CAPZero – Leading the way

Our Community Action Plan for Zero-Carbon Energy (CAPZero) is the first if its kind in the UK. 

The plan sets out how a cluster of communities in West Oxfordshire can reach a zero-carbon energy system in their local area in a way that works for them.

The UK has set a legally binding target to achieve a 78% carbon reduction by 2035, and net zero by 2050. Our whole energy system needs to change to reach that target. 

The CAPZero Vision

We want to reach net zero and have a cleaner, greener energy system as soon as possible. To do this we need to halve energy usage and double our renewable energy generation. A zero-carbon energy system is possible if we act now, both locally, at a Primary Substation level, and nationally.

Our project mission is to achieve a zero-carbon energy system in the Eynsham (Cuckoo Lane) Primary Substation Area before 2050 through long-term stewardship in a way that benefits and motivates current and future residents and provides a model to inspire wider action.

What area does this plan cover?

Our plan covers parts or all of 8 parishes in West Oxfordshire, that sit within a single Primary Substation Area.  These are:

  • Cassington
  • Eynsham
  • Freeland
  • Farmoor in Cumnor
  • Hanborough
  • North Leigh
  • South Leigh
  • Stanton Harcourt & Sutton

The Primary Substation Area (PSA) is the ‘local’ part of the national electricity network, where the voltage is stepped down to enter our homes and workplaces, and where we have the biggest opportunity to make a difference in the way we use energy.

From switching to electric heating and electric vehicles through to reducing our energy demand by improving energy efficiencies, we have the power to change how we use energy.  

Energy planning is usually done at a larger scale, but we want this Action Plan to be community-led at a community scale, and to be a useful model for others to follow to speed up the move to zero-carbon.  There are just over 60 PSAs in Oxfordshire, and each one could develop a Community Action Plan.

What is a zero-carbon energy system?

The energy system we currently have continues to rely on fossil fuels like oil and gas, and energy production is still responsible for most of our carbon emissions. These carbon emissions cause climate change. We need to move to using renewable electricity for our heating and transport needs to cut these carbon emissions. At the same time, we need to reduce our energy demand by making our existing and new buildings more energy efficient (e.g. through improved insulation). If we do this, our plan shows we can shift our energy production to 100% renewable and still meet our energy needs in the timeframe we have.

Do ‘net zero’, ‘zero-carbon’ and ‘carbon neutral’ all mean the same thing?

When a product or service is described as ‘zero-carbon’, it means that no carbon emissions are created in its production; so, a zero-carbon energy system, the creation of which is the aim of our CAPZero, is an energy system that relies 100% on renewables, with no carbon emissions produced in the energy’s production.

To understand ‘net zero’ and how it differs from ‘carbon neutral’, read this post.

Can we do it? YES!

Our modelling (completed by Energy Systems Catapult as part of Project LEO) has shown that we can reach net zero by 2050 and generate all the energy we need locally over a year. Although we hear a lot about the government target to achieve net zero by 2050, there is mounting evidence that we need to be much more ambitious, so we have set targets for 2030 as well as 2050 (in line with Oxfordshire County Council’s Pathways to a Zero Carbon Oxfordshire report).

This Community Action Plan for Zero-Carbon Energy’ is a ground-breaking effort. With the exception of some remote islands, it’s the first attempt of which I am aware, to set out what a zero-carbon society might look like at a local level. More importantly it includes a plan of action for delivery… With this plan, the Eynsham area truly is leading the way.

Professor Nick Eyre, Professor of Energy and Climate Policy, and Senior Research Fellow in Energy, Environmental Change Institute (from the Foreword).

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