Project Local Energy Oxfordshire (LEO) is one of the UK’s most ambitious, wide-ranging and innovative energy trials.

It aims to showcase the potential of smart local energy systems and accelerate the UK’s transition to a zero carbon energy system. The project is exploring how changes to technology, flexibility markets and people’s energy behaviour could help balance the electricity network through creation of a smart local energy system.

Part-funded with £15 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Prospering From the Energy Revolution (PFER) challenge, Project LEO is drawing on the expertise of local authority, social enterprise, academic and industry partners. Through a wide-ranging series of trials it aims to build up a bank of valuable data, insights and practical guidance that can be used to support the energy transition across the UK.

Project LEO’s focus is on understanding the power of flexibility at the ‘grid-edge’, meaning the point at which homes and businesses connect to the network. Harnessing people’s ability to provide energy flexibility – temporarily increasing or decreasing their energy generation or use in response to local network need – can free up space for new local low carbon technologies and renewable generation. The aim is to make the existing energy system more flexible, so it can be used more efficiently. The LEO trials are investigating the management and monitoring of these low carbon technologies and how they might support the electricity network during, for example, periods of peak electricity demand or maintenance.

The project is exploring three key areas:

  • Technology – monitoring low-voltage networks to understand what needs to happen to make them ready for the transition to a smart local energy system
  • New models and markets – exploring new products and services that create commercial opportunities for industry, as well as benefits to customers, such as cost-savings
  • Society – working with five varied local communities to trial different flexibility services and better understand what motivates people to participate in a new energy system.

LEO recognises that a smart network is more than just wires and switches. Technology is vital for optimising usage, but is not enough in isolation. Moving towards zero carbon energy requires changes to the way people use and interact with energy as well as creating the right commercial and regulatory ecosystem to support this change.

Project LEO closes in March 2023, but already its learnings about the management of smart local energy systems are being shared nationally and internationally. Flexibility services will play a key role in meeting zero carbon targets. The ambition is that Project LEO will benefit not just Oxfordshire, but also accelerate a journey to smart local energy systems across the globe through the International Community of Local Smart Grids.

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