Published: Monday, 6 March 2023

Oxford has been granted £193,000 to provide electric infrastructure to help reduce air pollution along Oxford’s waterways.

Oxford City Council, in partnership with the Canal and River Trust, has been granted £192,993 by the Government’s annual Air Quality Grant, to deliver six ‘eco-moorings’ on the Oxford canal.

The successful ‘eco-moorings’ bid, aims to install and trial three electrical power points (pillars) at the towpath visitor moorings managed by the Canal & River Trust at Aristotle Lane.

The power points will be installed at visitors moorings to provide electrical power for up to six visiting boaters to reduce their reliance on diesel engines, generators and wood burners for their day-to-day energy needs.

One of the eco-moorings will also be fitted with a socket that is able to support increased future demand for electric boats (e-boats). The other two pillars could also be upgraded to support e-boat charging in the future, as the technology and market develops.

In Oxford, it is estimated that there are around 200 boaters living on Oxford’s rivers and canals, with half of them being visiting boaters. However, across the country, there are limited locations where electrical power is available for boaters – especially for short-stay moorings.

This means that many boaters are forced to rely on fossil fuels as a source of heat within their houseboats either through wood-burning stoves or by connecting to a diesel generator while moored. It is estimated that roughly 95% of boaters in Oxford use bottle gas, diesel/petrol generator, or a coal/wood burner to heat their houseboats.

Domestic wood burning has been found to triple the effect of harmful pollution particles inside your home. In Oxford, 66% of all local fine particulates (PM2.5) come from domestic heating, compared with only 21% coming from transport. This includes the use of gas heating and cookers as well as solid fuel stoves.

Across the UK, new data from DEFRA estimates that domestic combustion contributes to 27% of PM2.5 emissions nationally, with most emissions from this source coming from households burning wood in closed stoves and open fires.

 The ‘eco-moorings’ project aims to explore how electrical power infrastructure can be used by visiting moorers on the canal. The Oxford eco-moorings project builds upon other successful projects in Islington and Camden. Learnings from the trial will help inform future management of Oxfords’ canal.

Oxford City Council and Canal & River Trust will also be working to deliver air quality and retrofitting advice to boaters through the project, this will include ways and opportunities to transition to cleaner energy systems, as well as information on how to use their current heating in the most efficient way.

The project will run from April 2023 until March 2025, with the project and onsite management organised and delivered by the Canal & River Trust, on behalf of Oxford City Council.

Particulate Pollution in Oxford

Particulates can have a serious impact on human health. It is especially harmful to children, the elderly, and those with illnesses or conditions such as asthma and emphysema.

Last year, Oxford City Council launched its ‘Do You Fuel Good?’ campaign in partnership with the Canal and River Trust, which aims to tackle the health and environmental harms of using wood burning stoves.

The campaign highlights that for some people – such as people living in boats - wood stoves are the only option for heating their home. The campaign aims to provide information for people who rely entirely on wood stoves for heating, as well as providing advice on how they can use their wood burning stove more cleanly and efficiently.

The eco-moorings will support this project, while also providing practical support for boaters to transition away from wood burning stoves.

In January 2021, Oxford City Council approved an air quality action plan for the city for 2021-2025. The action plan recognises for the first time the issues with wood burning and introduces specific measures to deal with wood smoke emissions.

The plan includes the commitment to deliver a citywide campaign on how to implement DEFRA’s best practice on the use of open fires and wood burning stoves, and on how to reduce burning of inappropriate fuel, including eco-moorings.

“I am delighted that we have been granted funding for the eco-moorings project on the canal at Aristotle Lane. A large majority of boaters have no other choice but to use wood burning and diesel generators as a way of keeping warm all year around.

“This funding will help us to work with the Canal & River Trust to provide boaters will an alternative source of fuel, as well as raise awareness of best practice. “I am looking forward to seeing this project progress, and learn more about how we can reduce air pollution and support the boating community across our city.” 

Councillor Anna Railton, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice

“Air pollution is something that affects every one of us and we all have a role to play in its reduction.

“Many boaters are very eco-conscious, and these moorings can give an alternative to diesel or solid fuel sources, while still being available to those who do not yet have a mains connection.

“The DEFRA Air Quality grant will enable us to work together with Oxford City Council to install the eco-moorings and deliver on air quality improvements on the Oxford waterways.”

Ros Daniels, Director for London & South East at Canal & River Trust

Rate this page