We are facing a climate emergency
To respond to the climate emergency, we need to find smarter, cleaner ways to power our lives.
Oxford City Council is leading the way, and has set a target for the city to reach net zero by 2040, a full decade earlier than the UK’s national target.
Energy Superhub Oxford is a pioneering project designed to help achieve this goal. The project is combining new technologies to demonstrate how cities can decarbonise power, transport and heat. It’s a huge collaborative effort, bringing together partners from across the public and private sector and academia.
The aim is to transform how people power their lives, from travelling to work to heating their homes, and make sure all of Oxford’s citizens prosper from the energy revolution.
We’ve created this mural with local artist Andrew Manson, better known as Mani, to showcase some of the technologies helping to deliver a cleaner energy future, and we hope, to inspire people to take positive action to help protect our planet.
Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
Born in south London in 1791, Faraday rose from humble beginnings to discover many of the electrical principles that underpin our lives today. He educated himself by reading books while apprenticed to a local bookbinder, and went on to work at the Royal Institution, contributing significantly to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His discoveries helped transform electricity from a curiosity into a powerful new technology.
Today most of us take electricity for granted, and in just a few generations it has transformed our lives in ways we could never have imagined. Now, we are in the midst of a new energy revolution, transforming our electricity system from one powered by polluting fossil fuels to one which relies on zero carbon energy sources. The UK Government has set a target to decarbonise the UK’s power system by 2035, with massive increases in wind and solar generation.
Eunice Foote (1819-1888)
Eunice Foote was an American scientist and women’s rights campaigner who contributed to our early understanding of the relationship between atmospheric gases and climate change. She conducted a series of experiments that demonstrated the interactions of sunlight on different gases, including carbon dioxide, and theorised that “an atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature.”
Her results were summarised in her paper Circumstances affecting the Heat of the Sun’s Rays, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in 1856.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now at the highest recorded level in human history, topping 420 parts per million (ppm), over 50% higher than pre-industrial levels. This is comparable to the Pliocene Climatic Optimum, between 4.1 and 4.5 million years ago. During that time, sea levels were between 5 and 25 metres higher than today and studies indicate large forests occupied today’s Arctic tundra.
At the heart of Energy Superhub Oxford is a giant battery which can store up to 50 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. Battery storage is fundamental to meeting the UK’s target to deliver a zero carbon electricity system by 2035. The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, but batteries mean we can store surplus renewable energy when it is plentiful and save it for when we need it.
Energy Superhub Oxford has installed a 4-mile underground electricity cable connecting Redbridge Park & Ride directly to National Grid’s high voltage transmission network at Cowley substation. This means that the charging hub here in Redbridge has huge amounts of power available, and can add hundreds more chargers over the coming years as electric vehicle adoption grows. A connection point has also been installed at Oxford Bus Company, ready to support the electrification of the city’s bus fleet.
In parallel, the project has helped Oxford City Council to electrify over 10% of its 330 strong vehicle fleet, from cars and vans to bin lorries. Insights from these vehicles will help to inform the Council’s ongoing electric vehicle strategy.
Low carbon heating has been installed in over sixty homes in Blackbird Leys, combining innovative ‘shoebox’ ground source heat pumps with smart controls and a time of use tariff to optimise cost and carbon savings. The project will evaluate adoption and usage, to understand how these new technologies impact on local communities and how we can accelerate their rollout nationwide.
A net zero Oxford
Oxford has set a roadmap to be net zero by 2040, which means reducing carbon emissions by 88% by 2040 from 2018 levels and offsetting any that remain.
The roadmap identifies five sectors with the greatest climate impact – domestic, commercial, industry, institutional, and transport – and maps a timeline of ‘what needs to happen, and by when’ for Oxford to stay on-track.
Alongside this, the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership has approved an Action Plan, which outlines the ways in which the 2040 target can be achieved.
It’s a hugely complex and challenging plan which will involve city-wide conversations, but the prize is enormous. What’s good for the environment will be good for people’s health, jobs and well-being, creating a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous city for all.
This mural features some very special electricity pylons designed by Year 5 children at St Swithun’s CE Primary School in Oxford. Local artist Mani and members of the Energy Superhub Oxford team spent a fantastic day with the children exploring the history, innovation and benefits of green energy, sustainability and environmental art.
The children designed and created their own energy structures from willow, taking inspiration from modern pylon designs around the world. Huge congratulations to all the children who took part. You showed creativity, flair and bags of positive energy and we’re very proud to feature the winning design here!