Europe’s first net-zero carbon neighbourhood gets major boost

One of the UK’s first Virtual Power Plant’s (VPP) is set to be added to a pioneering 300-home scheme in Dudley.

Equans is set to deliver Europe’s first net zero carbon neighbourhood in Brockmoor, Dudley, comprising a mix of privately owned and social housing properties. The scheme is acting as a pilot to find a scalable solution for decarbonising neighbourhoods across all seven local authority areas in the West Midlands, while supporting efforts to combat fuel poverty.

The firm will partner with UrbanChain, a peer-to-peer energy exchange company and Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC) to develop the VPP in council-owned building stock, to create a pooled energy solution in Brockmoor.

Solar panels and battery storage will be integrated across a mix of residential and commercial properties to create a cohesive energy generation and demand management system – enabling tenants to buy cheaper energy through the VPP than purchasing directly from the grid.

Communities and asset owners will be able to share 100% clean energy through the integration of blockchain and AI into a peer-to-peer energy exchange. The flexible distribution will mean residents are able to make savings, with no upfront capital costs to the local authority or tenant.

The revolutionary method allows Equans to create revenue streams to unlock private finance or simply supplement the revenue stream of its partners – local authorities for reinvestment in other projects or services.

Equans previously secured £1.65m in funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), for the wider net zero neighbourhood. Homes will undergo ‘deep retrofit’ of energy efficiency and decarbonisation measures alongside shared bicycle initiatives, demand-responsive transport, local grid trading, communal food growing initiatives, green roofs, and sustainable drainage systems.

Colin Macpherson, Divisional CEO for Equans UK & Ireland, commented: “We are pleased to be working with UrbanChain, who share our vision of making green energy affordable and putting communities first. Together, we hope to unlock capital for the council so it can continue its bold journey of decarbonising, while improving lives.

“This is a truly innovative and groundbreaking project. As well as the promise of reducing carbon emissions, it has the potential of spearheading a step change in energy supply; but more importantly, it has the capability of making real inroads to combat fuel poverty.”

Dr. Somayeh Taheri, CEO of UrbanChain said: “This collaboration represents a significant milestone in our mission to address fuel poverty and provide a return on investment for local authorities and communities committed to making a lasting impact. We are excited to showcase how our innovative technology can play a crucial role in transforming energy management and sustainability at the community level.”

Work on the net zero carbon neighbourhood is already underway and will continue over the next two years.

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