Local Energy Oxfordshire (LEO)

Osney Island is one of seven communities across Oxfordshire that has been selected to help planners build the energy systems of tomorrow. The community is supporting efforts to:

  • increase the ability of the grid to accept input from local renewable energy sources (hydro and solar)
  • experiment with battery storage of electricity from these renewable sources so that power can be used when needed
  • facilitate the adoption of more electric vehicles locally

More of our electricity in future will come from small-scale local generation, and more electricity will need to be generated as cars and vans using petrol are phased out.

The Osney scheme is part of the Local Energy Oxford (LEO) project, led by Scottish & Southern Energy. The aim of the project is to find solutions to the challenges posed by creating a future ‘smart’ energy grid in Oxfordshire based on non-fossil-fuel sources. The increase in local generation of electricity and new patterns of demand mean the grid will have to be much more flexible than it is now, using advanced technologies to balance supply and demand over the course of the day.

Osney was selected to participate in the project because:

  • a number of local sites generate electricity, including Osney Lock Hydro
  • island residents have shown interest in transitioning to electric vehicles
  • meeting future electricity demand on the island will require significant network upgrades

So the island offers a test bed for studying how some elements of the future grid could work.

The project is at an early stage but is looking at partnering with the Environment Agency, which currently buys some of the power generated by Osney Lock Hydro. There is potential for a fleet of electric vehicles to replace the current EA trucks, and for surplus power from the hydro to power an electric club car vehicle on the island. Battery storage at the EA depot, allowing local renewable electricity to be used when it’s most needed, is also being considered.

Three volunteers from Osney are working with the LEO project team. They are:

  • Ali Lloyd of South Street (on the board of Osney Lock Hydro)
  • Iain McLean of West Street
  • Simon Collings of South Street

They report regularly to OIRA, and will be keeping the local community informed about the project.

Other partners in LEO include the City and County Councils, University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University, and Oxford Low Carbon Hub. The project is funded by Innovate UK.

The UK is committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is perfectly feasible but there are many technical, regulatory and economic issues to sort out if this is going to become a reality. By participating in Project LEO, Osney is helping to bring that reality nearer. The project will not involve any disruption to current electricity supply on the island.

Osney Lock Hydro