Eynsham CAPZero: Community Action Plan for Zero Carbon Energy

In 2019, Oxfordshire County Council declared a climate emergency and a year later it outlined its framework to become a carbon neutral area by 2030. Across the county lots of areas have looked to gather data to inform plans and decision making.

Eynsham has been working on a Community Action Plan for Zero Carbon Energy (CAPZero) as part of a Smart & Fair Neighbourhood trial within Project LEO – the aim was to develop a comprehensive plan for transforming the area into a Net Zero neighbourhood by 2050.

The Catapult was brought in to provide a localised whole energy systems roadmap to decarbonisation with visual plans highlighting suitable technologies. This was especially important for the village and surrounding parishes as there are plans to grow the community by over 3,700 homes in the next few years.

The challenge 

Unlike when modelling larger areas where due to the scale you can make some key assumptions, a smaller area means that data and modelling must be more detailed and correctly reflect the local area. Larger areas outputs are averaged over a larger number of assets so errors in the modelling of a small number of buildings are not as critical.

Another key challenge is that this area has  large levels of new development planned (3,725 new homes in an area with 4,400 existing homes).. In addition, it also presented a highly dynamic situation with one development in the planning system during the project with expectations changing throughout.

The innovation

Project LEO sees that a decentralised, or local energy solution, focused on balancing energy use at the grid edge, closest to homes and businesses, will be the most desirable approach to accelerating our transition to a zero-carbon energy system.

The Smart & Fair Neighbourhood Trials taking part across Oxfordshire were to understand how new technologies and services, particularly at the ‘grid edge’ – closest to the point where people and businesses are using energy – can benefit local people, communities, and the energy system.

The Catapult undertook a scaled down and tailored Local Area Energy Plan (LAEP) (Neighbourhood Energy Plan) for the Eynsham primary substation area to meet the deliverables of the CAPZero This tailored approached saw some of the key principles of the seven step LAEP process being implemented across a much smaller geographical boundary, enabling the area to identify the most effective pathways to reaching Net Zero for the community of Eynsham and surrounding parishes. Unlike previous LAEPs this was for a single High Voltage substation for around 4,000 homes rather than around 100,000 for a typical local authority scale LAEP.

The solution

The Catapult used its dynamic modelling toolslus extensive local data to understand the local area and options for change, matched against the area’s current plans outlined in the CAPZero. Once we collected the data and reviewed it against their plans, we visualised the current energy network make-up of the area to support low carbon interventions. We then took this data and used it to model different low carbon technologies and scenarios but always based against the current local plan to not only support it and validate it but also challenge it where necessary. During this stage we looked at options including retrofitting homes, options for rooftop solar and the suitability of a district heat network amongst others.

We then produced bespoke models to understand the relative costs and benefits of future pathway options and assess the balance between generation and demand and the possible benefits of local energy storage.

The Catapult concluded that heat pumps will be the most suitable low carbon heating option for the Eynsham primary substation area. Alternatives of district heating and conversion of the gas grid to hydrogen were also explored.  All new buildings in the area and around 3,400 of the existing buildings should be suitable to switch to air source heat pumps, although some existing buildings would require improvements to their levels of insulation to allow air source heat pumps to work effectively. This leaves around 1,000 existing homes (mainly larger, detached and heritage buildings) where alternatives to air source heat pumps might be required. A proportion of these are likely to be suitable for ground source heat pumps.

Next steps

A bid has been submitted for Alpha stage funding from the SIF programme for a project called LEO-N led by SSEN. One of the WP has a task about developing what they have called the Grid Edge Coordinator role.  As part of this, they have included the Catapult in a small consulting role to explore how they might replicate the CAPZero they did for the Eynsham Primary Substation Area in a cost effective way if done in an area where a LAEP is in place with full network transparency.

As part of the Smart & Fair Neighbourhood trial’s community engagement an event was held in Eynsham Village Hall in April 2023, attended also by residents of most of the other parishes. Following this, Freeland Parish started a new sustainability group – Freeland Net Zero. They attended a thermal imaging workshop Low Carbon Hub held later in the year with partners with a view to undertaking a thermal imaging campaign this Winter – as a start in their parish to the retrofit element of the report.

Catherine Ryan – Community Engagement Manager, Low Carbon Hub, said: 

“It’s heartening to see such a variety of people, and from many parishes, so engaged with CAPZero and eager to take part in the discussion. People who engaged with us are enthusiastic to support the action plan that demonstrates how a locally balanced energy system can bring social, economic, and environmental benefits for everyone. They feel inspired that a solution to the challenges we face, is possible if we all take part.”

Read the Summary Report

Community Action Plan for Zero Carbon Energy (CAPZero)

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Read the Report

Local Area Energy Planning: The Time and Place is Now

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