Cenex Project Development Manager Andrew Whittles previously worked in Local Government and brought with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise, thus forging strong working relationships between Cenex and several local authorities in the UK.

Formally established in April 2005, Cenex is the UK's first Centre for Excellence in Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technologies. It is a UK government initiative supported by theDepartment for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). The company is involved with a number of UK local authorities, covering a wide variety of projects:

Cenex is currently working with Sheffield and Leeds Councils, helping them understand their fleet carbon footprint and mechanisms for cost effective reduction. Through this type of collaboration, Cenex assists Councils in understanding how local carbon technology can be optimised to suit specific operational requirements. For instance, hybrid technology is most suited to urban stop/start driving. By developing specific duty cycles for a particular local authority, they can then go out to the market and seek solutions specific to their requirements.

Cenex is collaborating with several local authorities and passenger transport executives to demonstrate local carbon vehicle technology. Very often, new technology comes with a price premium and questions regarding reliability and maintenance. By carrying out demonstration programmes, local authorities can gain first-hand experience of using new technology, providing the confidence needed to procure in volume.

Cenex highlights technology, often in a pre-commercial phase that through demonstration leading to procurement, can be pulled into a full commercial phase. Electric vehicle trials involving battery-powered Smart cars and Modec vans are just beginning and similar projects are due to start shortly for hybrid vans and gas vehicle technology, including hydrogen.

Innovative procurement assists in accelerating the adoption of low carbon fuels and technologies. Cenex is currently working with several local authority groupings to find how this is possible. Whether by simply aggregating demand or utilising innovative Forward Commitment techniques, local authorities can achieve cost-effective low carbon technology procurement, whilst managing any associated risk with the early adoption of new technology.

Forward Commitment is particularly suited to local authorities, who would like to see if the market can respond to any unmet need for low carbon technology.

With this form of procurement, the risk associated with new technology is placed upon the supplier and not the customer. For example, the market responds, and following a period of competitive dialogue a tender is awarded for the development of a technology prototype, e.g. hybrid van.

Following a successful trial, meeting all the customer's pre-agreed criteria, the Forward Commitment is triggered, involving the procurement of a given volume of the technology for a preagreed price. This method of procurement allows the market to have the confidence to invest in new technology development.

Cenex is working with several local authorities including Greenwich, Powys & Ceredigion and Hinckley & Bosworth, who are interested in developing anaerobic digestion facilities to potentially provide carbon-negative transport fuel. New regulations limiting the amount of biodegradable waste that local authorities can send to landfill has provided a fresh driver for gas vehicle technology.

To assist local authorities Cenex is supporting the development of a Biomethane Toolkit designed to provide the necessary data for Local Authorities to use when evaluating the most appropriate application for bio-methane, e.g. transport fuel, electricity production or Combined Heat and Power. A conference is scheduled for Spring 2008, that will see the launch of the toolkit and other biogas-related initiatives.

Cenex is currently working with the Beacon Council Air Quality Authorities (Greenwich, Croydon, Sefton and Sheffield), ARUP and the Greater London Authority to produce Best Practice Guidance on using the planning system to implement Low Emission Strategies.

The Guidance, which is due out for consultation before Christmas and will be available on DEFRA's Air Quality Help Desk, will help authorities implement low emission transport strategies in association with developers, and also secure funding for initiatives and the necessary infrastructure to support new technology adoption.

Cenex, in association with ARUP and Sheffield City Council, has supported the development of an innovative carbon emission impact toolkit that allows interrogation of data to understand the effect of selected intervention strategies and new technology deployment. The toolkit is currently being used as part of Sheffield's approach to a city-wide Carbon Strategy and it has just earned them the European Climate Alliance Star Award for their innovative approach to tackling climate change.