Infrastructure project development

A key Zero West aim is to help accelerate the development of low-carbon infrastructure in the region.

Our infrastructure projects group is doing this by:

1. Initiating new developments.

2. Promoting existing developments that our members, partners or the public ask us to assist with. This might involve, technical, financial or promotional support.

Zero West will not be an asset owner of the developments. That will be the organisations who come together on any particular development. Here are our main efforts so far.

You can also view and download an up to date presentation of our latest work here: There’s an Energy Revolution Underway.

1. New offshore wind schemes

Over the last year we have established a coalition of organisations and specialists in the region who are interested in developing offshore wind projects, in South West England and a wider area stretching to Wales and potentially Ireland.

Offshore wind could provide significant energy to the region. We estimate it may be possible to install 3GW of wind capacity in the area being considered.  This would produce approximately 11 TWh of energy per year.

In comparison, the annual combined electricity and gas consumption in the West of England area (comprising Bristol, BANES, North Somerset and South Glos) is approximately 11.5 TWh.

The sea off the South-West coast is deeper than in most parts of the UK. This makes it most suitable for floating wind turbines, which can be deployed in depths greater than 60m. Although the floating foundation technology is less-well developed than the fixed-foundation turbines used in offshore wind farms in other UK regions, floating offshore wind has the potential to reach cost parity rapidly, and also represents a potential international market 4 times that of fixed offshore wind.

Our wind group is supporting an initiative led by the Cornwall & Isles of Scillies Local Enterprise Partnership to secure revenue funding and project leases of the coast of Cornwall of pilot, pre-commercial and early-commercial scale, leading to the roll-out by 2030 of large-scale, commercial schemes in the Greater South West region using this technology.

The collaboration is now in advanced discussions with the energy minister about support for those early stage schemes. The Zero West team is helping to get all South-West LEPs supporting the project.

Read more here.

2. Whole-street retrofit using the Energiesprong model

Energiesprong is a revolutionary approach to whole-house, whole street, deep retrofit done at scale using a model developed in the Netherlands. It’s also available for new-build. Its schemes are done to the very best energy standards, and the money saved on future energy bills and maintenance is used to pay for the works. The retrofits are quick to install: a complete house makeover is usually done in a week and residents don’t need to move out.

Energiesprong conversion

Energiesprong now has a UK office, and is using the social housing sector in the UK as its launch market. It’s currently looking for new sites, ideally in clusters of 300-500 properties. Zero West has facilitated two meetings between Energiesprong, the four West of England local authorities and local social housing providers to assess the feasibility of submitting a regional bid of this size.

3. Hybrid heating

The data team is particularly interested in another WWU project – the Freedom Project. This 2017 pilot tested the effectiveness of smart hybrid heating systems. It was a cross-sector collaboration between Wales and West Utilities, Western Power Distribution, and PassivSystems.

The project combined an air source heat pump (ASHP) and high-efficiency boiler with smart optimising controls to provide flexible switching between renewable power and green gas. It ran in Bridgend, across 75 properties of all types.

Imperial College has analysed the findings from the Freedom Project, and concluded that this solution could:

  • be the lowest cost pathway to fully decarbonise residential heat.
  • prevent over-investment in power generation and energy infrastructurecapacity.
  • divert that money instead into flexible domestic assets for consumers.

The technology used in the Freedom Project pilot is now commercially available from PassivSystems.

Its B-Snug hybrid heating service combines a new air-source heat pump with an existing boiler and a smart control system.

The Zero West project team is now working with the company on rolling out the technology in our region.

4. Electric buses

All the major vehicle manufacturers are now putting their focus on electric cars, vans and trucks. The Chinese city of Shenzhen has fully electrified its bus fleet, with 16,000 e-buses for its population of almost 13 million people. It is expected to achieve an estimated 48% reduction in CO2 emissions, and has halved its fuel bill.

The projects group has developed a financial model that enables buses with combustion engines to be converted to electric. It has selected a company to convert the engines, and crowd-funding monies are available for the work.  The group is now in discussions with local transport providers about proceeding with a pilot project.

5. Electric heat microgrids

Bristol start-up Clean Energy Prospector (CEPRO) has been developing innovative community microgrids for a number of years. Zero West is helping it develop an investment model that would enable community microgrids to be rolled out nationally, and has introduced it to angel investors. More on this here.

6. Local energy supply

There are a number of initiatives for local energy supply currently under way in the region. These are building on the many community energy projects in the area. Zero West is providing a platform for information sharing on these initiatives, and aims to help them get implemented at scale when the current regulatory blockers to their adoption are removed.

One such initiative is the current feasibility work by Low Carbon Gordano and Zero Carbon Bristol on a scheme to install a 1MW “urban rooftop solar farm” on domestic roofs in the Lockleaze area of Bristol. This would initially be funded by a bond issue, and eventually be owned and operated by Lockleaze Neighbourhood Trust.

The solar panels would supply locally-generated and affordable energy to 300 households. As well as bringing immediate financial savings to those struggling with energy bills, this replicable scheme would help create community assets, raise aspirations, and provide a platform for local residents to create climate resilience and develop local enterprise.

7. Bristol Hydro Scheme

Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) has recently received permission from the Environment Agency and Bristol City Council to develop a 360kW hydro scheme at Netham Weir, near the Feeder Rd.

The scheme will not receive the Feed-in Tariff, and will be totally unsubsidised, so BEC has asked Zero West for innovative ideas on how the scheme can be funded.

8. Smart finance

The group’s aim is to facilitate the implementation of transformational, smart energy schemes at a scale which will attract institutional investment.

Zero West won’t own the assets arising from the projects it facilitates. The owners will be the organisations who choose to partner on any particular project, and they will decide on the best funding mechanism to use with it.

Early on Zero West established a finance group. This is providing initial due diligence on the development group’s projects, and mapping out possible funding sources. These include institutional investment, commercial funding, social funding, and community funding.

The money’s out there, as these earlier green bond raises show:

2015: Transport for London 10-year, 2.25%, £400m fully subscribed.
2015: City of Gothenburg 6-year, 1.455%, 1050 million Swedish Krona raised. 2017: SSE 8-year, 0.875%, €600m bond to refinance its wind farms.

8. Non-smart finance

Meanwhile, the £4 billion Avon Pension Fund currently has an estimated £105 million invested in fracking. This money needs to move into local zero-carbon infrastructure.


9. Non-financial blockers

There are a variety of blockers to the zero-carbon transition, including regulatory, policy and mind-set. Removing these involves bringing people together, working through the issue, and developing solutions. Here are a few real life blockers currently hindering the Zero West project teams:

Solar PV on industrial buildings

It’s very difficult to persuade users of large industrial warehouses to installrooftop solar. The buildings are often part of property portfolios owned by institutional investors. The portfolios change hands frequently, and the ownersdon’t see enough financial value in a solar installation to invest time in workingthrough a roof-top lease negotiation with their tenants.

Solar on new build housing

Very little rooftop solar is installed on new build housing, because housing developers are currently allowed to get away with it under current planning law.

Grid connections

Distribution network operators have to give as much weight to grid applications from fossil fuels developers as those from renewable developers.

Planning fees

The size of the administration fee levied by councils for planning applications is directly proportional to the size of the physical area being developed. This means that the fee for a planning application for a large solar farm can be as much as the fee for developing a shopping centre. This is a huge disincentive for renewable energy developers, and the policy needs to be amended.

Demand Side Response (DSR)

DSR is an arrangement where large commercial users of electricity are financially incentivized to lower or shift their electricity use at peak times. This helps manage load and voltage profiles on the electricity network. It also reduces the need for the network operator to make costly grid upgrades to meet new demand. DSR technology is already well-advanced and in use at individual sites:

But for true network benefits to be achieved, a significant number of energyusers in a geographical cluster must all to commit to adopting it. This isn’t yethappening, so we need to engage with businesses about both the financial benefits DSR will bring them and their environmental responsibility to their staff, their local community, and future generations.