Our Hub highlights of 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, we wanted to reflect on our Hub highlights of the year – it’s been another unconventional one!

We celebrated £3 million invested in the Community Energy Fund

We met our target of raising £3 million of new investment into the Community Energy Fund ahead of the 31 March 31. Looking back, it is hard to believe that was this year but we are still blown away by the level of support the share offer received, especially in such unusual circumstances. The share offer re-opened in November 2020 and we had to increase our target twice in order to meet unprecedented levels of early investment.

Thank you so much to everyone who has invested, putting their money to work tackling climate change!

Share offer highlights

Contracts were signed and construction began at Ray Valley Solar

One of the large projects the Community Energy Fund 2021 investment is going to be used for is to build Ray Valley Solar, a 19MW ground mount solar park. This will be the largest community-owned ground mount solar park in the UK. Ray Valley Solar is the Low Carbon Hub’s first ground mount solar project and will result in a five-fold increase in our annual green electricity generation. Situated in Arncott, three miles south east of Bicester, the site neighbours an MOD logistics site, HM Bullingdon prison and two existing solar parks. 

Back in February we were delighted to report that we signed the construction contract for Ray Valley Solar ground mount solar park and construction began in May.

May also saw the Triodos Bank UK approve a new loan facility to go toward the construction of the project. Further lending will also be made available for its operation next year. As well as the Triodos loan, Ray Valley can go ahead thanks to the incredible support of people who together invested £4.5 million in our Community Energy Fund as well as a loan from Oxford City Council and grant funding from Project LEO.

The Ray Valley Solar site in progress, waiting for the solar panels to arrive

We released our fifth Social Impact Report

We report our impact through four metrics:

  • Planet: protecting our warming planet through reducing energy demand and creating renewable energy projects
  • People: community energy is a grassroots, people-centred movement for change
  • Prosperity: our renewable energy projects generate collective wealth through electricity sales which help us to deliver further projects across Oxfordshire
  • Perception: we aim to be a transparent and trusted partner, sharing knowledge and expertise openly

It’s been fantastic putting together this year’s Social Impact Report and reflecting on our ever growing social and environmental impact. We report on our increasing ability to generate clean, green electricity, cutting carbon emissions locally. I’m particularly proud of the impact we have helped achieve from our growing community benefit donation income in driving innovation and improving energy efficiency.

The team is growing and (finally) getting together!

We have been very excited to welcome a number of new faces to the Low Carbon Hub team this year:

  • Mairi Brookes – Smart Energy Systems Director
  • Jack Irwin – Smart Energy Systems Trial Manager
  • Mim Saxl – Project Manager, Rose Hill Smart and Fair Neighbourood Trial, Project LEO
  • Clare Doolan – Finance Assistant
  • Harry Bratt – Marketing and Communications Coordinator

It was also a joy to be able to finally meet up in person at our team away day in September at Hogacre Eco Park. The sun shone for us and it was a great opportunity to discuss everything from diversity to personal development goals.

Annual General Meeting

This year has meant moving our events and meetings online, and trying our best with this new way of working. We love meeting our members face to face at our AGMs, but this year, unfortunately, meant we were all tiny boxes on a screen. But we still had a great time.

In October we held our joint Low Carbon Hub AGM (via Zoom) for 2020/21, attended by our Investor Members and CIC Shareholder Groups. We reflected on the year’s achievements and highlighted some of the exciting work we had coming up.

Low Carbon Hub at COP26

We were excited to be represented by two members of the team at COP26 in November. This was a crucial climate change conference that brought together world leaders to make the decisions needed to protect our warming planet.

Low Carbon Hub CEO Barbara Hammond took part in a COP26 panel discussion on ‘Engaging Communities in a Net Zero Future’. The session looked at how communities can co-ordinate and collaborate to play a more active role in the future energy system. It was part of a whole day of events organised by Scottish and Southern Electricity Network discussing the critical role of electricity distribution networks in delivering a smart, inclusive and just transition to net zero.

Barbara was also in the Blue Zone for the launch of the International Community of Local Smart Grids, which Low Carbon Hub is founding member of. This is an exciting initiative about sharing knowledge and solutions to enable a local net zero transition.
You can read more about our presence at COP26 on the Project LEO website.

Marketing Coordinator, Zoë Toone, was on the ground for the second week of COP26. We posted across all of our social media channels and Zoë wrote a series of blogs for the website on her experiences.

Office move

You may have seen that in the past month we have moved offices. We were thrilled to announce that we’ve been invited to join an exciting and innovative new workplace: The Energy Systems Accelerator pilot – better known as Mini TESA – to be based at Holywell House at Osney Mead in Oxford. 

This is a world-leading multi-disciplinary hub and co-working space, championing green innovation. It is a University of Oxford-led project, developed in partnership with OxLEP. 

The pilot aims to foster collaboration between industry and academia across all energy sectors (electricity, heat and mobility), to develop new approaches to help us meet our net zero targets. 

You can read more about the Mini-TESA here

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the Low Carbon Hub to join a space dedicated to developing the solutions to build a better energy system. One that is good for people and good for the planet. We’ll be working with leading academics and organisations in tackling the energy challenge. Our work in Project LEO has highlighted what we’ve long known: the value of collaboration and we’re proud to have been invited to join this new innovation ecosystem to continue our work in developing a better energy future.”

BARBARA HAMMOND, CEO

As you can see from these select highlights, it’s been a busy year for the Low Carbon Hub and for community energy in Oxfordshire.

As ever, it’s important to say that we couldn’t achieve any of this without your support as partners, investors, advocates, and friends. So at the end of 2021 we want to say a huge thank you for your continuing support.

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