THERE could soon be more solar panels and hydro schemes in Oxfordshire thanks to a new initiative.

OxFutures – made up of Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford-based Low Carbon Hub – was launched at the Said Business School on Friday in a bid to attract investment of £400m into clean energy schemes across the county.

And yesterday it was announced that Low Carbon Hub has agreed to support rural communities become more eco-friendly as part of a £15m Government bid to scale-up community energy projects.

The aim of the OxFutures initiative, which has been kick-started by a £1.2m EU grant, is to help Oxford reach its target of reducing carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2020.

And it wants to reach the Oxfordshire County Council target of 50 per cent by 2030.

A number of projects have already been identified for funding, including ones in Faringdon and Charlbury.

Addressing the audience, Tim Stevenson, the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, said: “I think we have got the opportunity for Oxfordshire to become an exemplar for what can be done in this vitally important area.”

Barbara Hammond, chief executive of Low Carbon Hub, said 14 community groups had already signed up to the scheme which her organisation will use the grant to invest in.

Returns from the investments will then be used to start other schemes.

City councillor John Tanner, executive board member for Cleaner, Greener Oxford, said: “This project means we are going to have more solar panels, more hydro schemes and we are going to be able to help more people in fuel poverty.

“It will mean we reduce our energy use and have much more sustainable energy rather than depending on fossil fuels, which once you’ve burnt them are gone forever.”

One of the low energy schemes which was cited as an example of what could be done is the hydro scheme at Osney Lock, which will use the Thames to drive turbines to generate electricity.

The project managed to raise £320,000 in 10 days by selling shares in the scheme.

When it is completed later this year, it will generate 165,500Kwh of electricity a year – enough to power 50 houses – which will be sold to make investors a return.

Leo Johnson, an author on sustainability and brother of the Mayor of London Boris, said: “It is a great initiative. You feel that Oxford has got all the ingredients you need to make this work.”