Hook Norton Low Carbon, a carbon-cutting community in rural Oxfordshire, and Eco Bicester, an energy-saving project run by Cherwell District Council, have won prestigious European energy awards after being nominated by the National Energy Foundation earlier this year.
The Ace Awards reward leading initiatives, organisations and projects in the field of renewable energy and energy transition from across North West Europe. The Awards are run by the Academy of Champions for Energy, a partnership of energy organisations from England, Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands which promotes the importance of renewable and sustainable energy, funded by the INTERREG IVB NWE programme.
The awards were announced at the Ace Awards Finale (see the video) in Arnhem in the Netherlands last week. The ceremony is one of Europe’s most high-profile events that recognises achievements in renewable and sustainable energy.
Hook Norton Low Carbon competed in the category of Energy Neutral Village against other European communities who have made major steps towards becoming climate neutral and energy self-sufficient. The co-operative of local residents from the Oxfordshire village of Hook Norton formed in 2010 with the main aim of providing low-cost funding for energy saving measures in the home. This is achieved through a rolling community loan fund, initially seeded by the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s Low Carbon Communities Challenge. All loans are paid back to the fund interest-free and are re-invested in other carbon saving projects. Projects so far include a community biodiesel supply, a low carbon car club, solar PV installations, a community smallholding and feasibility studies for generating clean energy from wind and waste.
Tim Lunel, founding member of Hook Norton Low Carbon, said: “We are delighted to receive this recognition from the Ace Awards. Reaching energy neutrality will take time and investment and that’s why Hook Norton Low Carbon created our rolling community loan fund to underpin this transformation. We are considered the first community to use grant funding to generate a long term sustainable revenue stream, and we hope that through this award we can inspire other communities to develop their own innovative approaches to transition to a sustainable energy future.”
Cherwell District Council’s Eco Bicester project competed in the category of Energy Smart Municipalities against other European local authorities who have developed pioneering or innovative approaches to promoting sustainable energy. The Eco Bicester initiative combines a town-wide energy efficiency programme with the building of a new 6,000 home Eco Town, which will be the only true zero-carbon large scale housing development in the UK. The energy efficiency programme has successfully engaged over 30,000 residents through discounted insulation and boiler replacements, energy saving workshops and six demonstration sites, including a PassivHaus show home and a leisure centre powered by biomass and solar PV.
Gabi Kaiser (left) and Jenny Barker (right) from the Eco Bicester Project Team received the Energy Smart Municipalities award on behalf of the Eco Bicester project.
Gabi Kaiser said: “The Eco Bicester project has used new zero-carbon development as a catalyst for behaviour change, learning and retrofitting across Bicester, ensuring the entire community understands and gains from the changes that are taking place. We hope that through this award we can inspire other local authorities to see energy transition as a means for creating better places to live and work in an eco-friendly way.”
Gabby Mallett, Associate Director of Green Deal, Communities and Secretariat Services at the National Energy Foundation, commented: “The National Energy Foundation has been working with communities for over twenty years, and we are delighted that two of our outstanding nominated projects were successful at the Ace Awards. We are also pleased to have hosted Fiona Booth, Head of Community Energy at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, at the Awards, underlining the growing importance of community energy in the UK. By bringing together exemplary initiatives from across North West Europe, the Ace Awards has demonstrated the great things communities can achieve.”