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Place based trials

Our Smart and Fair Neighbourhood programme

Our Smart and Fair Neighbourhood (SFN) trials will demonstrate how flexibility services can sit at the heart of a smarter, low carbon, locally balanced energy system.

We are working with five varied local communities to trial different flexibility services. We will explore how smart technology and new commercial models can create opportunities in a local energy marketplace and help us to understand how to do this in an equitable and fair way for everyone.

What do we mean by ‘fair’ energy system or energy equity?

Along with the technical challenges Project LEO is addressing, it is also looking at another key issue – that of fairness. As we progress towards net zero and a more decentralised energy system, it is important that no one is left behind in the transition. While the changes as part of this transition are essential, it is important they do not generate unfairness in how the distribution of costs are spread in the new system and do not leave people behind.

Who will get to benefit from the new opportunities that will arise from our changing energy system, and who will bear the cost? 

Enhancing our understanding of what constitutes equity in an energy context, and how to achieve it, is key to Project LEO and our Smart and Fair Neighbourhood (SFN) trials aim to do just that.

Equity bicycle graphic, courtesy of: Visualizing Health Equity: One Size Does Not Fit All Infographic by RWJF on RWJF.org

Why is it important?

Fairness or equity is crucial to a future energy system because any new system that is considered fair by a community is more likely to meet with social approval and therefore be successful.

We need mass participation to deliver a locally balanced energy system at sufficient scale to meet our net zero targets. So, the pursuit of fairness in the new energy system is not only the right thing to do, but also a key part of meeting our net zero goals.

We believe that it’s in all our interests that no one is left behind in the transition to a zero carbon energy system. Opportunities must be available to all businesses, households, and communities. Any new, locally balanced energy system needs to benefit and be fair for everyone, not just a minority with their own solar panels, battery storage, or electric vehicles.

How will it work?

We are working with five Oxfordshire communities to trial different approaches to harnessing the potential of energy users to deliver flexibility at the grid edge.

The two-year trials will involve the setting up and testing of local, low carbon energy trials that use market mechanisms and smart technology to bring value to the electricity network and the people connected to it, working with local energy communities.

As well as testing technical and commercial innovation, our SFN trials will help us to better understand the social innovation that can lead to the development of a portfolio of successful energy service offerings. For example, we want to learn what sorts of benefits or return, be it financial or otherwise, could motivate people to participate in the new energy system.

Our ultimate aim is to identify service offerings that are technically and commercially viable as well as desirable, as these will be crucial if grid edge engagement is going to become self-sustaining.

Read our report Developing an ethical framework for local energy approaches for more detail on our approach to delivering the Smart and Fair Neighbourhood programme.

Thank you

None of this work would be possible without the collaboration and support of the many communities taking part in our SFN trials. Thank you for working with us to help create a smart and fair local energy system for the benefit of all.

The Smart and Fair Neighbourhoods are:

  • Eynsham Smart and Fair Futures SFN is developing a ‘Zero Carbon Energy Action Plan’ for the Eynsham primary substation area plus a plan for its long-term governance
  • Deddington and Duns Tew SFN is looking at how the installation of heat pumps and smart monitoring can help decarbonise rural, off-gas communities and how energy efficiency measures can be installed in households under planning constraints
  • Osney Island SFN is a study in how small densely populated urban areas can cope with an increased demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and how people who don’t have access to their own EV aren’t left behind in this transition
  • Rose Hill SFN is looking at how a largely residential community with several energy assets, including battery storage, can change energy use patterns, generation and storage to balance the grid locally and benefit the local community
  • Westmill SFN is looking at how with the existing solar and onshore wind farms, along with potential battery storage, they could participate in local flexibility markets.

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