Did you know that Hook Norton Low Carbon (HNLC) was established in 2008 initially as an informal group then in October 2009 as a ‘not-for-profit’ Community Benefit Society to promote the implementation of sustainable carbon reduction and renewable energy initiatives at a local and individual level?

In 2010, HNLC was one of 12 organisations across the country (two in Oxfordshire along with Low Carbon West Oxford showing what a strong community we are in for taking positive action) to be awarded funding by the government as part of the Low Carbon Communities Challenge (LCCC). This provided us with some capital to invest and assist others to invest in sustainable carbon reduction initiatives with the joint objectives of taking tangible and sustainable steps in reducing the carbon footprint of Hooky and its residents whilst also generating an ongoing income to allow the continuation of these activities into the future.

The initial focus areas of HNLC activities included the establishment of the Hooky Car Club, initially with cars running on biodiesel but later supplemented by fully electric vehicles, the installation of PV panels on the Hooky School roof and upgrading its insulation in cooperation with Oxfordshire County Council, and installing PV panels on the Baptist chapel working with the Baptist Church. We also provided low interest loans to around 50 Hooky households to invest in carbon-saving measures of their own such as improved insulation, PV, solar water heating and heat pumps to replace oil boilers. One activity which we haven’t yet progressed further was collecting data from a Met Mast on the hills to the northeast of Hook Norton which showed that we have a good wind resource in the area that could offer a future community renewable energy opportunity.

These various projects not only reduced carbon emissions but Hooky residents’ energy bills too. They also attracted international attention which, in 2014, culminated in Hooky being awarded the status of Energy Neutral Village in the ACE Awards (Academy of Champions for Energy), one of Europe’s most high-profile events that recognises achievements in renewable and sustainable community energy. Although their definition of “energy neutral” in this instance might be a bit out of date, we still strive towards this aim and intend that the new affordable housing development in Hooky (which was originally proposed in 2015 and has just received planning permission) will have a self-contained micro-grid with PV and battery storage that will allow it to be not only self-sufficient but a net energy exporter. This is being delivered through a new organisation Hook Norton Community Land Trust that was formed out of the initial work of HNLC.

More recently we have added an e-bike hire facility, an oil syndicate to reduce delivery miles for those still using oil (whilst encouraging a switch to a more sustainable form of heating when the opportunity arises!), increased our PV portfolio with large (50kW) installations at Banbury Plant Hire and the Sports and Social Club and added a second EVto the car club fleet. We’ve been able to increase the waste recycling we do as a community and our Big Veggie Lunch last June was a great success and a real celebration of what we can all do – and by next summer we sincerely hope these community gatherings will be back in force. All of these measures have resulted in savings not just in energy usage and costs but also CO2 and other harmful emissions running into hundreds of tonnes. We recognise and encourage the many other groups that can play their part in reducing the carbon emissions of the community and have been able to provide loans and support to other new organisations such as Hook Norton Community Small Holding and Incredible Edible Hooky. It has also been fantastic to be able to work as part of the Apple Day team to make good use of fruit that could potentially go to waste. So if you’ve got ideas on how to start up a new area of activity of your own whether as part of HNLC or as a new group, we’d always like to hear from you. More details at www.hn-lc.org.uk or info@hn-lc.org.uk.

Finally, a request for help. HNLC is aiming to put together a register of energy-saving measures in Hooky so please let us know details of your projects at the email above. We would like to hear (via the above email) about your Solar PV, Solar Thermal, Air/ground source heat pumps, bio-mass boilers, Electric Vehicless and PHEVs. Using your details (which can be anonymous), we will develop a carbon savings tracker for our web-site showing the difference that Hooky residents are making. It will also form the basis for follow-up Did You Know…. blogs on some of these technologies to help others join in so we can make an even bigger difference. Thanks for your help.