Community Carbon Reduction
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Chester
Unit of AssessmentGeography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Earth Sciences: Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Summary of the impact
Roy Alexander's innovative research into climate change awareness and
behaviour change has transformed the way the world looks at this issue.
It has enabled a Cheshire village to reduce its domestic carbon footprint
by 20% and become an established model for communities across the globe.
Dissemination of his research has reached around a billion people
worldwide and stimulated the establishment of similar projects across the
UK, and as far afield as Canada.
The award-winning initiative has influenced local and national government
policy and attracted official visits from the Secretary of State for
Defra, the Rural Advocate and Business in the Community.
Professor Alexander joined the University of Chester in 1988 and began
his research in the village of Ashton Hayes in 2005 with the development
of a domestic carbon footprinting methodology.
The aim was to provide a tool that would yield a reliable indication of a
household's carbon footprint without being too onerous for residents to
complete. A baseline face-to-face survey, conducted by a team of
undergraduate students in May 2006, yielded a response from 45% of village
Results were quality checked, analysed and the outcomes published.
Findings were fed back to the villagers through the project website, www.goingcarbonneutral.co.uk,
poster displays, reports and meetings, and residents were given
household-specific feedback, with bespoke recommendations for making
Examination of the efficacy of these dissemination routes in promoting
behavioural change informed follow-up surveys, which were conducted each
year from 2007 to 2010 and reached 72% of village households. All results
were published on the project website and within the village, and further
disseminated via conference and community group presentations.
Close contact with the local authorities was maintained from the outset
and a second strand of research sought to explore the nature of this
relationship in the context of the Sustainable Communities agenda. Focused
interviews were conducted with key figures in the Ashton Hayes project and
with a council officer in order to explore the extent to which the
community could be seen as empowered and self-sufficient rather than a
passive recipient of delivered services.
Annual monitoring revealed a reduction of 20% in average household
emissions between 2006 and 2007, which was maintained but changed little
in succeeding years. The difficulty in reducing emissions beyond this 20%
level through behavioural change alone led to the exploration of renewable
energy generation as a means to achieve further cuts. Research, conducted
jointly with EA Technology Ltd, focused on developing a renewable
energy-powered community microgrid using the existing distribution
With funding from Carbon Connections UK, a study of the feasibility of
community microgrids in rural areas was carried out, using Ashton Hayes a
test-bed. This examined the potential of a range of renewable energy
sources to meet load requirements on a low voltage feeder line, as well as
options for demand-side management.
Generation potential was assessed by monitoring and modelling wind speed,
insolation and biodiesel CHP. Technical issues including monitoring loads
on the low voltage feeder and within individual houses and community
buildings, and matters of social acceptability and organisational
structure, were communicated through a series of meetings and focus
groups. The results were published as reports and conference papers and
led to the submission of a successful application to the highly
competitive Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) Low Carbon
Communities Challenge (LCCC) in 2010 for £400,000 to develop and implement
the first stage of the village microgrid.
As a result of this research, SP Energy Networks, the local distribution
network operator, adopted the village in 2011 as the base for a Low Carbon
Networks Fund Tier One project examining the network impact of renewable
generation and development of a smarter electrical network.
References to the research
Alexander, R., Hope, M. and Degg, M. Mainstreaming Sustainable
Development-A Case Study: Ashton Hayes is Going Carbon Neutral. Local
Economy, 22:1, 62-74, February 2007. Refereed article.
Hope, Max and Alexander, Roy 'Squashing Out the Jelly: Reflections on
Trying to Become a Sustainable Community', Local Economy, 23:3,
113-120, 2008. Invited article.
Gillie, Mary, Carter, Jen, and Alexander, Roy. A Generic Model for
Community Microgrids. Confidential report to Carbon Connections. EA
Technology Consulting/University of Chester. 56pp, 2009. Consultancy
Report. Report of outcomes from a project subject to a competitive bidding
Gillie, M., Carter, J., Alexander, R. and Charnock, G. Getting the most
from Community Generation — an Economic and Technical Model to Control
Small Scale Renewable Community Generation and Create a Local Energy
Economy. Paper 0190 presented at CIRED, 20th International
Conference on Electricity Distribution, Prague, June 2009.
Convenor-reviewed conference contribution
Gillie, M., Alexander, R. and Roberts,D. Community Energy from policy to
practice. Paper 0244 presented at CIRED 21st
International Conference on Electricity Distribution, Frankfurt,
June 2011. Convenor-reviewed conference contribution
£86,558 investment by Carbon Connections UK (CC Project 42) for `Model
for the installation and operation of a rural microgrid on the existing
power distribution network using Ashton Hayes, Cheshire as a test bed'.
£400,000 award to Ashton Hayes Parish Council from the Low Carbon
Investment Fund as part of DECC's Low Carbon Communities Challenge Phase
2, 2010. Ashton Hayes was one of 12 projects funded under Phase 2, which
received 239 applications. The terms of the award required 90% of funding
to be spent on equipment. Of the remainder, the University of Chester
received £8,000 from Ashton Hayes Parish Council for research and
facilitation work. Roy Alexander co-authored the application on behalf of
Ashton Hayes Parish Council.
Details of the impact
This project has been recognised because of the way it has mobilised a
community to take concerted action, and the fact that it has been
rigorously and independently monitored by the University of Chester. The
research input has been vital both to its success and to its endurance.
The beneficiaries of this research have been many and various. The
village of Ashton Hayes has benefited most directly through the energy
savings and improvements to lifestyle made by many of its 1,000 residents.
It has also received extensive recognition and tangible assets have been
acquired as a result of the project. In 2008, lobbying led to Cheshire
County Council developing a safe access footpath to the railway station in
the next village and the DECC LCCC project in the village provided a
sustainable, low carbon sports pavilion and electric car for community
use, as well as 25kWp of solar photovoltaic generation capacity on the
pavilion and the village school.
Invited presentations to more than 150 UK communities (http://www.goingcarbonneutral.co.uk/diary-of-events/">diary-of-events/)
and distribution of a Toolkit DVD to 1,000 more in the UK and abroad have
stimulated many to follow the Ashton Hayes example. Eden Mills in Canada
set up a very similar scheme in 2007 following a visit to Ashton Hayes.
Eden Mills has adopted the logo and methods used in Ashton Hayes and has
linked with the University of Guelph. Nøtterøy in Norway also established
a similar project and is now twinned with Ashton Hayes on a carbon neutral
Government organisations and policy makers have also been influenced. The
project has regularly featured as an exemplar on the Energy Saving Trust's
particularly for the methodology used for community carbon footprinting.
In September 2008, The Rt Hon Hilary Benn made a ministerial visit to the
village to learn more about the Going Carbon Neutral project and our
research for the microgrid study. The project featured as a case study in
the White Paper, The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, published on
15 July 2009, when the BBC spent the whole day in the village making
hourly national and international broadcasts about the research
activities. It also features as an example of community energy in the
White Paper, Local growth: realising every place's potential,
presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Business, Industry
and Skills on 28 October 2010. From 2010 to 2012, Roy Alexander served as
an invited member of the DECC LCCC Working Group.
In addition, businesses have been influenced by the project. At the
outset, start-up funding of £3,600 was provided by local companies and the
international environmental consultant RSK Group was stimulated, in part,
to set up its carbon monitoring unit as a result of the project. In 2009,
Business in the Community made a Seeing is Believing visit to
Ashton Hayes to learn more, particularly about the ways businesses could
interface with community projects. Also in 2009, the project was one of
the first to be adopted for support by newly-established charity, Carbon
Leapfrog (now Pure Leapfrog), which channels pro bono professional
services to carbon saving projects in the UK and abroad
(carbonleapfrog.org). In 2010, Roy Alexander was invited to become a
member of Carbon Leapfrog's Project Steering Group, which selects projects
for support at its monthly Dragon's Den-style meetings in London. He has
also been invited to speak at its national and regional events for
Productive links have been established with energy technology experts EA
Technology Ltd and ScottishPower Energy Networks. These began with work on
the microgrid feasibility study and have led on to further collaborations
on projects concerned with demand-side management and smart appliances.
The Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral initiative is now recognised
nationally and internationally as a pioneering flagship community project.
Articles have appeared in local, regional and national press, including
the Observer and Financial Times, and in publications such as Dagens
Nyheter, Tønsbergs Blad and Berliner Zeitung in the international press.
Broadcast media coverage in the UK has involved local and national radio
on BBC4 and 5Live, plus international radio coverage on the BBC World
Service, German World Service and CBC. Television cover has BBC 1, CBBC
and Sky News in the UK, with the BBC News and BBC World channels, New
Zealand TV and SBS TV South Korea providing international coverage.
Together with a short film about the project, The Village Green,
commissioned for and broadcast worldwide during the Live Earth
concerts on 7 July, 2007, the total reach by these media outlets is
estimated at up to one billion people.
Sources to corroborate the impact
Reports, documents, websites
Dr Stuart Burgess, Report of the Rural Advocate 2007. Commission
for Rural Communities, CRC58. September 2008. (pp2, 24, 29 refer to the
Rural Advocate's learning from his visit to Ashton Hayes)
The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan: National strategy for climate and
The Stationery Office Ltd. July 2009. (p93 provides a case
study of Ashton Hayes)
Local growth: realising every place's potential. The Stationery
Office Ltd. October 2010. (p25 makes reference to the example of Ashton
Low Carbon Communities Challenge Interim Report 2010/11. Department of
Energy and Climate Change. July 2011. (pp 11, 12, 30 refer to the LCCC
project in Ashton Hayes)
Low Carbon Communities Challenge Evaluation Report. Department of Energy
and Climate Change. July 2012. (pp 22, 25, 44, 48-53 refer to the LCCC
project in Ashton Hayes)
Barker T., Mageean A., Tweed J., Gillie M., Edwards G., Alexander R. and
Bulmer P. (2009) Vision 2050: A Sustainable future for Cheshire West
and Chester. Document produced for Cheshire West and Chester Borough
Council on its inauguration in 2009 and which forms the basis for its
Sustainability Commission of Inquiry, see
for Commission reports. (These items contain frequent references to Ashton
Hayes and corroborate the influence of Alexander's research on policy
development in the Borough).
Example broadcasts from Ashton Hayes, 15 July 2009 (Corroborate the
national reach of the Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral project and its
influence within the village. Other broadcasts on the day were transmitted
Film: The Village Green. (Corroborates the international reach of
the exemplar Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral project).
(Ashton Hayes project website, which typically receives 500+ visits per
month and has had up to 1,000 unique user visits per month. The diary
corroborate its reach to many communities in the UK and abroad and also
the numerous presentations given by Alexander).
(Corroborates the selection by SPEN of Ashton Hayes as a base for a Low
Carbon Networks Fund project)
(Corroborates the role of Ashton Hayes in inspiring the Eden Mills Going
Carbon Neutral project. Note that their logo duplicates, with permission,
that of Ashton Hayes)
(Corroborates the influence of the Ashton Hayes project on Nøtterøy,
Selected beneficiaries of research
Member of Ashton Hayes Parish Council and Director of RSK Group)
(Can corroborate the impact of Alexander's work on the village of Ashton
Hayes and more widely)
Project Manager, Climate Change/Sustainability, Cheshire West and Chester
(Can corroborate the contribution of Alexander's work to policy
development at Cheshire West and Chester Council)
Senior Representatives, Pure Leapfrog
(Can corroborate the impact of Alexander's work on low carbon communities
across the UK and his input to the work of Pure Leapfrog)