Low Carbon West Oxford helps local residents to cut emissions for community benefit

Overview

West Oxford is the home of an award winning community-led initiative set up to help and support residents reduce our individual and community carbon emissions and create community benefit.

The initiative consists of four organisations run mainly by local volunteers: Low Carbon West Oxford (LCWO, a charity), West Oxford Community Renewables (WOCoRe, a community benefit cooperative), Osney Lock Hydro (OLH, a community benefit cooperative) and Hogacre Eco Park (a community interest company).

Background

Low Carbon West Oxford was formed in response to growing local concern about climate change, the increased frequency of local flooding including the unprecedented summer flood of 2007, inspiration from other low carbon communities and an awareness that people need to be provided with the means, not just the call, to action on climate change.  Residents organised a local demo to protest against local flooding and subsequently held a number of open meetings to discuss what we could do to reduce our contribution to climate change.

The meetings led to the establishment of Low Carbon West Oxford which subsequently merged with two other local organisations: Waste Watchers and West Oxford Wildlife group.   Working groups were set up on waste reduction, transport, food, renewable energy, home and energy, and trees and wildlife.  Some of these projects were later scaled up into an ambitious project that won a number of awards and grants.

Solution

LCWO helps people to take action by offering a positive message about the benefits of tackling climate change and providing a range of ways for residents to reduce their carbon emissions.   WOCoRe and OLH (the community benefit co-ops) develop local renewable energy projects financed by a combination of local share offers (and previously prize money and government grants). WOCoRe then donates the surplus income from the sale of renewable electricity and the Feed-in-Tariff to LCWO (the charity). LCWO uses the money to run further community carbon cutting low carbon living, home energy, transport, food, waste reduction, tree/wildlife, local business engagement projects.

This results in a double carbon cut:

LCWO double carbon cut model

LCWO’s double carbon cut model

LCWO also set up Hogacre Common Eco Park – a fourteen acre site that features field, woodland and aquatic habitats and hosts low carbon activities and events.  It was also a founding member of Low Carbon Oxford, and helped to create the Oxfordshire Low Carbon Hub as part of a government funded project with Oxford City Council.  It also advocates for a supportive local infrastructure and government policy to support local carbon reduction.

Outcomes and benefits delivered

Carbon Reductions from:

  • Renewable energy generation – saves around 190 tonnes of CO2 per year from renewable energy projects (solar, micro hydro and small scale wind turbines)
  • Low Carbon Living programme – saves around 130 tonnes of CO2 a. from around 160 households
  • Tree planting – saves around 25 tonnes of CO2 per year
  • Car club – around 60 tonnes p.a. from local car clubs
  • Waste reduction – up to 1.53 tonnes of CO2 avoided p.a from community Bring and Takes and Swishes (swap shops)

Other benefits

  • Waste prevention from Bring and Takes –  around 1.8 tonnes of waste diverted from landfill per year
  • Economic benefits from reduced fuel bills from reduced home energy use and solar photovoltaics (PVs), income stream for the community from renewable energy generation, interest payments for shareholders, local jobs and  increased demand for local trades
  • Comfort and health benefits from warmer homes: 112 households with vulnerable and elderly people at risk from a cold home were provided with advice and support
  • Biodiversity benefits – from tree planting and local wildlife projects.

(Evidence for benefits from: internal monitoring; Quicksilver carbon calculator; University of East Anglia CRED (for NESTA); DECC survey; EVALOC research project by Oxford University and Brookes University, Oxfordshire Community Action Groups’ Computer Impact Modelling Tool, Science Oxford)

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