UK's first 'smart' commercial hub signs 50-year clean energy innovation deal with E.ON

The developers of what purports to be the UK's first "smart" commercial campus have singed a 50-year deal with E.ON, that will see the utility giant develop, test and scale-up clean energy solutions in the west country.

An artist's impression of the Gravity campus. The facility has been designed with built-in green features such as low-carbon materials, electric vehicle chargers and buildings with passive daylighting. 

An artist's impression of the Gravity campus. The facility has been designed with built-in green features such as low-carbon materials, electric vehicle chargers and buildings with passive daylighting. 

Under the deal, developer and landowner This is Gravity Ltd will source 100% renewable electricity from E.ON to power all operations across the 635-acre Gravity campus, which is under construction in Bridgwater.

But, beyond this, E.ON will help the Gravity team to develop an alternative to standard energy models for the site. In partnership, the firms will work to develop, test and scale-up on-site solutions such as renewable electricity generation and storage arrays; low-carbon heat networks and energy-efficient cooling systems.

Ultimately, the site will act as a real-world test-bed for “smart” and low-carbon energy innovations. E.ON and This is Gravity Ltd are aiming for a result that not only cuts energy consumption and Scope 1 (power-related) emissions for the campus but which boost grid resilience, ensure energy security and minimise costs.

The two firms said in a statement that the campus’s energy model could act as a “blueprint” for how other businesses could become net-zero in line with – or ahead of – the UK’s 2050 target. Businesses represented on the campus once complete will hail from across the cleantech space, including firms working in electric mobility, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

“When we talk about the new energy future and our work supporting the UK’s net-zero ambitions, we’re pretty much describing what will be happening at Gravity as it becomes home to some of the world’s most innovative businesses,” E.ON UK’s chief executive Michael Lewis said.

“We’ve been impressed with the quality of expertise within the Gravity team and the striking natural fit of our shared vision for a sustainable future.”

“E.ON will enable us to satisfy the energy requirements of forward-thinking and climate-conscious tenants, and also ensure we are able to deliver our commitment to help drive the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy - something that is critical to all new commercial developments and future innovation,” This is Gravity Ltd’s co-chief executive Tom Curtis added.

A 'smart' net-zero transition 

When the Clean Growth Strategy was introduced in 2017, it detailed how £2.5bn would be spent by the Government on low-carbon innovation between 2015 and 2021. 

With this deadline now looming, with the UK still off-track to meeting its upcoming carbon budgets, and with the UK's new net-zero target in mind, the Strategy has been built upon by a number of smaller funding pots and policy interventions. 

On "smart" energy systems specifically - which have been repeatedly touted as essential as more renewable generation comes online - a £30m pit was opened by UKRI last year. The pot built on UKRI's £102.5m Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which is being used to support the creation of four smart energy hubs across the UK

Sarah George 



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