£41m project to support Oxford on journey to zero carbon

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Oxford City Council has facilitated a £41m project to trial the world’s largest hybrid energy storage system to support electric vehicle charging and low-carbon heat networking.

This will help Oxford on its journey to zero carbon.

Earlier this year the City Council declared a climate emergency in Oxford and committed to continue working with partners across the city and region to deliver widespread carbon reductions.

Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO) – a collaboration between Pivot Power, Habitat Energy, redT, Kensa, Oxford University, and Oxford City Council – will see the trialling of the world's largest hybrid battery system (50MW) to support the acceleration of Oxford’s electric vehicle charging capacity and fleets, and to power ground-source heat pumps for residential properties.

ESO will deliver a 20,000 tonnes of CO2 per year saving by 2021, rising to 44,000 tonnes per year by 2032.

Oxford City Council has been awarded £1,615,169 for its role in the project from the Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK as part of a successful £10.26m bid for the Oxford element of the overall £41m project. The rest of the funding is coming from the other partners in the project.

ESO will see the installation of a large battery, connected to the Cowley substation in Blackberry Lane, South Oxford, and will both store and re-supply electricity directly back to the grid. The battery will store and deliver power to electricity suppliers and will help to balance the local requirements for the grid.

Cable, sharing the same substation connection as the battery, will be used to provide low-carbon ground-source heating to around 300 homes, and will provide large scale electric vehicle charging capabilities across Oxford.

It will work through storing electricity at times of low demand and re-supplying at peak demand through the application of machine learning approaches. This includes the storage of renewable or ‘green’ energy.  The technology will be able to shift the demand to periods of low prices, minimise bills and overcome local network constraints. 

Technology from the battery will optimise time-of-day charging, with capabilities for overnight charging.

The £41m project will help accelerate the use of electric vehicles in Oxford, including growth of the City Council’s own electric fleet. Electrical cabling, powered by the spare capacity from the giant battery will deliver electric vehicle charging capacity to City Council depots and key businesses in Oxford, including local bus companies, taxis providers, and commercial fleet depots.

With the additional charging capacity available, the City Council aims to procure new electric fleet vehicles including refuse collection trucks, sweepers, tippers and vans.

The project will also enable the use of spare capacity energy to power an electric vehicle ‘superhub’ – which aims to be the first charging hub in Oxford with rapid electric vehicle charging. The superhub will see the installation of more than 20 ultra-rapid electric vehicle chargers for the public use. The chargers will have low affordable tariffs with charging speeds ranging between 10-30 minutes.

The funding will also support the Council to work with a partner offering a ‘Trial before you Buy’ programme for Hackney Carriage Vehicle drivers in Oxford. This will assist the transition of the black cab fleet from 100% diesel to 100% electric by 2025.

The Energy Superhub Oxford project will last for 36 months.

It is hoped that following the success of the pilot project, that the technology will be expanded to up to 44 sites across the UK.

The ESO initiative comes on top of the £4m million already secured by Oxford City Council to accelerate the use of electric vehicles in the city. This includes:  £2.3m to upgrade buses to be ultra-low emission or fully electric; £800,000 to install electric vehicle charging points for residents with on-street parking; a further £474,000 to introduce the world’s first pop-up electric vehicle charging points and £500,000 to install charging points for taxi owners and operators.

Oxford City Council is a member of Low Carbon Oxford, a network of 40 public/private organisations that aims to reduce citywide emissions by 40% of 2005 levels by 2020.

The recent 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that we have just 12 years to act on climate change if global temperature rises are to be kept within the recommended 1.5 degrees Celsius. In January, Oxford City Council joined other councils across the world in declaring climate emergency.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Executive Board Member for Safer and Greener Environment said: “The City Council is working towards a Zero Carbon Oxford to tackle dangerous climate change in the time available to us to save the planet. Uniquely, this £41m once-in-a-generation downpayment on Oxford will move the Council closer to achieving this vision. Leading businesses are investing in Oxford because they recognise that we’re already trialling new technologies exactly like Energy Superhub Oxford. Today’s announcement allows us as a city to embrace our technological future.

“This exciting project will enable the City Council to install more electric vehicle charging points of the kind that charge vehicles quickest. It gives Black Cab drivers additional support to shift from 100% diesel today to 100% electric in the next few years. It enables the council to move our own vehicles to electric on a faster timescale and, crucially, to install heat energy across homes to tackle fuel poverty.”

This article first appeared on the website of Oxford City Council on 3rd April 2019.