Innovate UK invests over £25m in net zero projects

Innovate UK’s Net Zero Living programme launches UK-wide package of funding and guidance to help accelerate net zero in regions and local communities.

A £25 million package of support from innovation agency Innovate UK will help local authorities across the UK:

  • tackle the barriers to climate action projects
  • speed up their progress to net zero
  • share expertise
  • unlock investment opportunities worth up to £500 billon

As part of Innovate UK’s Net Zero Living programme, seven local authorities will each receive Innovate UK funding of between £2 million and £5 million to run practical demonstrator projects. They will show how the non-technical barriers to implementing carbon-cutting measures can be overcome.

Innovate UK-funded demonstrators

The Innovate UK-funded demonstrators include:

  • building a financing model for new low-carbon heat networks in traditional terraced streets in Lancashire
  • a project in Peterborough developing a strategic approach to integrating net zero into operations, including a digital system that councils can use for net zero project design, management and delivery.
  • developing rural energy hubs in Orkney and the Shetlands to integrate transport, heat and power
  • a project in York to facilitate retrofitting homes with low-carbon measures, improving the householder experience of retrofit and contributing to better energy efficiency standards across the city

Future Ready programme

At the same time, Innovate UK is also starting work with a wider cohort of around 50 local authorities on a two-year programme. The programme involves practical support and shared learning, as they take the steps needed to become net zero places in the coming years.

Called ‘Future Ready’, this work will provide technical help to councils in the form of training, skills-building and one-to-one support.

The Future Ready programme will focus particularly on five areas most important for net zero progress:

  • visioning and citizen engagement
  • planning
  • finance and investment
  • data
  • policy and regulation

Councils working together

Beyond technical help, it will create a strong community of practice across the UK as the councils work together, generating insights, sharing learning, helping each other and coming up with new solutions.

The information and learning generated by the programme will also be made available to all local authorities across the UK, to help speed up their transition to net zero.

As part of the Net Zero Living programme, Innovate UK is also today publishing new research and in-depth guidance for all local authorities. This was developed with PwC and provides guidance on sourcing finance and investment for net zero projects, especially from the private sector.

This includes a market intelligence report which shows that the local projects needed to deliver net zero will require £500 billion over the coming years, an unprecedented investment opportunity.

Innovate UK has also published new thinking and guidance, commissioned from Regen, on how authorities can effectively approach planning for decarbonisation at a local level.

Seven demonstrator projects

Place: Leicestershire

Project leader: Leicestershire County Council

Grant: £2,565,883

Scope of project

A project focusing on community energy, developing 14 projects using citizen engagement and innovative financing to meet the needs of the local community. It includes an advisory service to be rolled out across the county and aims to generate a pipeline of investible projects.

Partners include:

  • Leicestershire County Council
  • De Montfort University
  • Energy Systems Catapult
  • University of Leicester
  • Green Fox Community Energy Co-operative
  • National Grid Electricity Distribution

Place: Liverpool

Project leader: New Resource Partners Ltd

Grant: £3,296,990

Scope of project

A ‘whole systems’ strategic approach to coordinating local power, heat and transport needs. The project will address grid constraints, governance and citizen engagement to deliver an exemplar ground source heat project.

Partners include:

  • New Resource Partners
  • Regent Capital
  • Decentralised Energy Soutions
  • Onward Homes
  • SP Manweb
  • Liverpool City Council

Place: York

Project leader: City of York Council

Grant: £3,371,806

Scope of project

A project aiming to eliminate the barriers to retrofitting properties with carbon reduction measures. It will involve engagement with residents, creating ‘deep retrofit’ demonstrator homes, developing supply chain skills and ways to match approved suppliers and products to needs, and exploring innovative financing methods.

Partners include:

  • City of York Council
  • Brightsparks Agency
  • Energy Systems Catapult
  • University of York
  • York Community Energy CBS
  • Wrapt Homes
  • Abundance Investment
  • North Yorkshire Council

Place: Orkney and Shetland

Project leader: Aquatera Ltd

Grant: £4,990,307

Scope of project

A project developing rural energy hubs across Orkney and Shetland to demonstrate products, services, facilities and business models with a specific focus on energy and transport. The hubs will be used to engage consumers, identify regulatory and grid constraints and drive behaviour change.

Partners include:

  • Aquatera Ltd
  • European Marine Energy Centre
  • Orkney Islands Council
  • Community Energy Scotland
  • Highland Fuels
  • Shetland Islands Council

Place: Bristol

Project leader: Bristol City Council

Grant: £4,964,208

Scope of project

A programme of engagement with citizens in three neighbourhoods to identify net zero projects, infrastructure and data requirements and financing mechanisms, and to develop local supply chain skills to meet local net zero needs.

Partners include:

  • Bristol City Council
  • West of England Combined Authority
  • North Somerset Council
  • City LEAP Energy Partnership
  • Bristol and Bath Regional Capital
  • South Gloucestershire Council
  • Centre for Sustainable Energy
  • Bristol Energy Network
  • Bath and North East Somerset Council
  • National Grid Electricity Distribution
  • Bristol Green Capital Partnership

Place: Rossendale

Project leader: Rossendale Valley Energy Ltd

Grant: £2,522,373

Scope of project

A project to develop a community-scale service model for delivering decarbonised ground source heat and power to terraced streets, which are constrained in terms of space. The model addresses citizen engagement and tests a financing format with no up-front costs.

Partners include:

  • Rossendale Valley Energy
  • Centre for Energy Equality
  • Urbanchain
  • Challoch Energy
  • Kensa Utilities
  • Nuvision Energy
  • Rossendale Borough Council
  • Community Energy Association
  • IoT Horizon

Place: Peterborough

Project leader: Peterborough City Council

Grant: £2,717,329

Scope of the project

This project will translate the local authority’s strategic net zero and local area energy plans into deliverable packages of work. It will work on governance, funding routes, skills and capability needs and customer engagement, specifically around the rollout of heat pumps in rural areas.

Partners include:

  • Peterborough City Council
  • Energy Systems Catapult
  • Edenseven
  • Nordic Energy
  • Cambridgeshire County Council
  • Peterborough Environment City Trust

Two additional demonstrator projects led by combined authorities of Greater Manchester and West Midlands but funded recently by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, will also be welcomed as active participants in Net Zero Living programme’s cohort. This will help to join up funded activity across the UK and maximise the shared learning between the places which are spearheading the nation’s net zero effort.

Speed up net zero journey

Mike Biddle, Executive Director for Net Zero at Innovate UK, said

We know that many local authorities find it hard to plan and deliver decarbonisation of heat, power, and transport locally. Often the technology is available, but there are big gaps in capability, resource, and evidence of what works best in reality.

That’s why we have issued this package of targeted support to help places all around the UK tackle the challenges, prove what can be done, share experiences and speed up their journey to net zero.

Further information

About the Innovate UK Net Zero Living programme

Innovate UK’s Net Zero Living programme is a £60 million, three-year programme that aims to help places and businesses across the UK to accelerate the delivery of the transition to net zero.

The Net Zero Living programme aims to help places to open markets by:

  • removing the non-technical barriers to demand, including skills, organisational capacity, citizen engagement, financing, procurement and governance processes, which can all create barriers to the rapid scale-up and adoption of net zero solutions
  • driving widespread business growth and innovation across the economy
  • unlocking significant additional private investment to enable true levelling-up both between and within places

Learn more about the Net Zero Living programme.

About Future Ready

Future Ready is an Innovate UK initiative to work with a cohort of around 50 local authorities that have received funding for projects under its Net Zero Living programme. Among these are seven demonstrators (local authorities amongst the furthest ahead in their net zero journeys) and 21 fast followers (local authorities at an earlier stage of their net zero journey).

Seven demonstrators

These have been funded by the Innovate UK net zero pathfinder phase two competition for 21 months, to run multi-million-pound practical projects on implementing net zero projects and unlocking barriers to delivery.

In addition, a further 14 local authorities have been awarded up to £150,000 each to continue with their plans to tackle the barriers to decarbonisation.

Twenty-one fast followers

These were funded for 24 months under the Innovate UK fast follower competition, to recruit a net zero innovation officer. This resource is designed to help the authority to deliver net zero pilot projects, participate fully in the Innovate UK programme, and then take the learning and insights back into their organisations.

While each place has received grant funding for its own net zero work, Future Ready brings them together to:

  • create mutual opportunities for knowledge exchange, upskilling and collaboration
  • explore innovative and creative approaches to delivering net zero projects

Top image:  Credit: Ray Kelleri, Stock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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