• Ofgem Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) allocates £16 million to 36 ‘ground-breaking’ net zero projects

    Energy regulator Ofgem says 36 ‘ground-breaking’ projects have successfully secured a total of £16.09 million of next phase funding, as part of its SIF Round 2 Alpha competition process.

    The Round 2 Alpha projects are led by energy network companies working in partnership with innovators and partner organisations. The successful projects will now take their initial ‘Discovery’ feasibility work to the next level, proceeding to ‘Alpha’ where they have up to £500,000 each to develop their concept in depth.

    The SIF collaborates with network operators, industry, and academia to identify the most pressing challenges, providing strategic direction and focus to identify and drive the highest-potential projects and bring them to reality. The Round 2 Alpha projects are addressing some of the biggest challenges faced by the energy networks as they make the move to net zero:

    • How do we transition to net zero in a way that is just and fair for all parts of society?
    • How does Great Britain repurpose its energy systems to move safely and efficiently from fossil fuels to renewable energy?
    • As energy systems become more complex, how do we deal with increasing natural risks and other hazards?
    • How do we achieve government and industry targets for decarbonisation of major energy demands at the lowest cost to consumers, including the use of heat pumps in homes, and the move to electric vehicles?

    Upon completion of the Alpha phase, projects will compete for third phase ‘Beta’ funding to produce demonstrator prototypes. The projects are aiming to go onto commercial development and could be implemented operationally in energy networks as early as the mid 2020s. They will play an important part in helping Great Britain achieve a safe, clean, low-cost energy future.

    Marzia Zafar, Deputy Director of Digitalization & Innovation at Ofgem, said: “Innovative solutions that deliver resilience, reliability and affordability at pace are essential in achieving Great Britain’s target of clean power by 2035. This latest funding round will help innovators develop their ideas further and deliver the transformative technologies needed to drive forward the energy transition at least cost to consumers.”

    One of the projects to be awarded funding is LEO-N (Local Energy Oxfordshire – Neighbourhoods) is tackling the challenge of reducing carbon emissions from major sources of energy consumption. Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks have pulled together a team to create a coordinated process to make it easier for homes, businesses, and communities to transition to using clean energy quickly, and on a large scale. Right now, there is no clear plan to help consumers make this shift, and a lack of the necessary infrastructure at the local level to support this transition.

    To address this, LEO-N are collaborating with stakeholders to use an innovative approach that focuses on creating tools, business arrangements, and local government structures that will speed up the move to net zero. This involves identifying, installing, and funding a set of options, such as improved building fabric and smart technology, to reduce energy consumption. Without this coordination process the individual changes needed may not be compatible with each other, leading to increased costs and reduced effectiveness.

    Another of the funded projects, Hy-Fair, will tackle challenges encountered by consumers, especially those in vulnerable situations, and small businesses requiring extra assistance in their shift towards environmentally sustainable heating solutions and other low carbon technologies.

    The project, led by Southern Gas Networks, will establish the Hy-Fair Fairer Warmth Hub as a central environment equipped with specialised tools and customised guidance to empower community champions, individuals, and small businesses.

     The Fairer Warmth Hub’s Innovative features will include a streamlined system for consumers to access financial support, guidance and simplified access to resources, data analytics for precise planning, and community engagement tools. By fostering place-based approaches, Hy-Fair will encourage collaboration and help communities deliver a fair energy transition.

    “Our project is more than just addressing challenges; it’s about transforming lives and communities. We’reexcited because, through the Fairer Warmth Hub, we’re not only providing vital support but also establishing an innovative framework that will be replicable nationwide. With streamlined access to resources, financial support, and community engagement tools, we’re paving the way for a fair energy transition that empowers everyone, especially those in vulnerable situations, and small businesses, to embrace sustainable heating solutions and low carbon technologies,”  said Stuart Sherlock, Innovation Governance & Performance Manager, Southern Gas Network

    “The climate clock is ticking and the cost of living crisis is pushing people to their limits. SIF is on an urgent mission to support people, planet and business and these projects are a sign of hope in challenging times. Within this round 2 alpha portfolio we have some trail blazing innovators whose ideas have significant potential to save consumers money and reduce CO2 emissions, whilst also helping to turn the UK into the Silicon Valley of energy,” said Matt Hastings, Deputy Director, Ofgem Strategic Innovation Fund, Innovate UK.

    The Strategic Innovation Fund is a five-year programme with up to £450m available to promote energynetwork innovation. A new round of the SIF begins each year and runs in parallel with the previous rounds. The competition for the third round of Discovery opened in September 2023.


    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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