Case Study

Osney Lock Hydro

The project:

Osney Island is a 200-household riverside community in west Oxford. 

Osney Lock Hydro was set up by a group of local residents to enable the development of the first community-owned hydro scheme to be built on the Thames.  It became fully operational in May 2015, and will generate clean electricity for the equivalent of 50 households, and a long term income stream for local environmental projects.

Low Carbon Hub and Osney Lock Hydro identified a few areas where Low Carbon Hub could help the project move forward. As a result Low Carbon Hub contributed legal costs as well as marketing costs, outreach and the expertise to develop a community share offer. The share offer was launched in 2013 to raise the money to build the hydro.

The use of an Archimedean screw turbine for the hydro was a positive choice in terms of allowing sediment and fish to move downstream; but it cannot provide upstream passage for fish.  So as part of the construction of Osney Lock Hydro, a new fish pass was installed, allowing fish to move freely up river for the first time in 200 years.

Surplus revenue will be donated to local community projects.  Over the 40-year project lifetime, this could be well in excess of £2 million. In addition to the projected £2 million surplus to fund local community projects, Osney Lock Hydro also delivers benefit to its community investors, who are all now members of Osney Lock Hydro. Members were offered:
– a target interest rate of 4% per annum until 2033
– interest payments from the end of the second year of operation
– repayment of their initial investment after 20 years
– one member one vote (regardless of how many shares held)
a right to elect the Board.

The first £150,000 investment qualified for SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) tax relief, enabling investors to recoup up to 50% of their investment as tax relief. The remainder qualified for EIS at 30%, once OLH had been trading for four months.

The tax relief effectively increased the rate of return from 4% to 6.9% with EIS and 9.4% with SEIS.

Photos / map / Impact

  • Osney Hydro Lock
  • 200 households on Osney Island
  • 40% of investors live within one mile of the project
  • 82% of investors are based within Oxfordshire county
  • 50 households supplied with clean energy from Osney Lock Hydro
  • 40 years of clean energy generation expected
  • £2M projected surplus revenue from energy generation, which will fund local community projects
  • 14 years in the making
In this part of Oxford, we have to protect ourselves from the natural forces of the river when it floods, so why not harness its power to generate renewable energy the rest of the time?

Suzanne, Resident, Osney Island

Although the Osney Lock Hydro scheme may only contribute a small fraction of clean energy to the national mix, it can have huge knock-on benefits in paving the way for community-led projects, raising awareness of the potential for renewables and capturing the abundance of currently untapped, clean, renewable energy available in the UK.

Paul Spencer, Director, Osney Lock Hydro

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    Saskya Huggins
    Social Impact Director
    01865 246099
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