The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has talked up solar PV’s potential to help the UK diversify its energy mix as well as curtail its escalating carbon emissions during a visit to his local constituency in Witney, Oxfordshire.

The Prime Minister was on hand to open a new 12.56kWp solar array situated on the roof of Eynsham’s village hall. The solar installation is the first step in an ambitious local scheme called the People’s Power Station.

Local green group, the Low Carbon Hub has worked closely with Oxfordshire Council to develop the People’s Power Station scheme. Oxfordshire hosts the UK’s second largest polluting power plant, Didcot A – a 2,000MW coal and gas-fired behemoth that is due to be shut down at the end of 2015 because it fails to meet European Comission carbon emission standards.

In order to meet the significant shortfall in energy that the closure of Didcot A will create, the Low Carbon Hub is aiming to put in place the equivalent capacity in renewable technologies.   

“Our vision is to mobilise everyone in Oxfordshire to ‘power down’ and reduce energy demand and ‘power up’ by increasing renewable energy generation to replace Didcot A,” explained Barbara Hammond, Director, Low Carbon Hub.

In real terms this means ‘powering down’ by around 750 million kWh a year and ‘powering up’ by producing 250 million kWh of electricity from households and communities, and 500 million kWh from businesses.

“We know from the work we’ve done with Oxford University that we have enough renewable energy resource in the county to meet these requirements as long as we hit national carbon reduction targets in 2020,” Hammond said.

The Eynsham village hall solar installation, installed by local solar installer, Joju Solar, was financed by local group Green TEA with the support of the Low Carbon Hub.

“We’re not financing all the installations but are in the process of raising the cash to provide support to a raft of community projects,” Hammond added. “There are more than 60 community groups we can work with across the whole county.”

“We’re also working with communities to get households aggregated for domestic energy retrofitting, spreading the word to businesses, and identifying community-scale renewable energy projects across Oxfordshire that we can help make happen.”

Joju Solar Technical Director Dr. Chris Jardine concluded: “Community solar projects have proliferated in recent years but the scale that Low Carbon Hub is operating on is different. They plan to replicate this kind of project again and again across Oxfordshire until it replaces Didcot power station. This is just the beginning.”

Opening the new solar array, David Cameron spoke of the importance of renewables, saying: “It makes sense as a country to be less reliant on sources of oil and other fuels from difficult and dangerous parts of the world. It makes sense to be more diversified and what could be more diversified than local sources and locally produced energy. 

“We’ve got to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere if we care about climate change and solar power can help us do that.”

The Prime Minister added: “What you’re doing here [in Eynsham] as a decentralised energy project is hugely important in cutting carbon, providing jobs, making us resilient and important in the long-term to have low cost energy. I’m personally very committed to this agenda.

“It’s great for me as Prime Minister to come and see this project to praise the People’s Power Station… the meetings I’ve had with local green groups gives me great inspiration about decentralised energy.”