Low Carbon Barrow was a European-funded support programme to help small- and medium-sized businesses and charities improve their energy efficiency and environmental performance. Run as a partnership between Art Gene and Barrow Council, it completed successfully in 2023.

We delivered a grants programme and a public engagement strand. We administered grants to 18 SMEs and charities, generating £181k of decarbonisation investment and 156 tonnes of saved carbon over a single year. We were delighted to directly engage an impressive 4700 people (1509 adults; 1372 children; 1848 family members) and deliver to over 50 different community groups and organisations to encourage lower carbon lifestyles.

Open for a year from November 2021, the grants programme was able to support a wide range of sectors including hospitality, retail, manufacturing and transport. Applicants could apply for grants of between £1k and £10k for low carbon investments, with applications assessed by an independent expert panel.

The programme will end on 31 March 2023. Projects approved in principle are currently in delivery. So, for example,

  • a charity that spends £1,800 on successfully changing all of its lighting to LED could claim back a grant of £1,200 for the costs;
  • a small business investing £24k in an air source heat pump with new insulation could claim back up to £10k in grant funding.

The legal detail for applicants

Qualifying SMEs and constituted community groups, if successful, will be awarded up to 70% of project costs. Sole traders and start-ups are not eligible. Total project costs (before VAT) are capped at £25,000. For SMEs, the following must be true:

  • Number of employees less that 250
  • Turnover less than €50m (approx. £46m) or balance sheet less that €43m (approx. £39m)
  • If more than 25% of the business is owned by another company/group the consolidated accounts of the parent company must still meet the SME threshold.

Restrictions apply to agriculture, banking and insurance, fisheries and ports, nuclear, public services, school age education, shipbuilding, steel and synthetic fibres. The programme will not fund moveable assets, such as electric vehicles.

State Aid rules apply. To be eligible for a grant you will need to be below the ‘De Minimis threshold’ and sign a declaration to that effect. In order to avoid public funding distorting competition within the European common market, the European Commission set limits on the levels of assistance which the public sector can provide to businesses (“the State Aid rules”). The assistance provided to you from Barrow Borough Council will comply with the state aid rules by applying De Minimis Exemption, EC Regulation 1407/2013 (24 Dec 2013) in the first instance, and the General Black Exemption Regulation (GBER), EC Regulation 651/2014 (17 Jun 2014) may also be applied.

Grants will be paid in arrears once projects are completed; you may need to demonstrate the ability to cashflow the work and provide evidence of both the works and the spend. We anticipate that for most applicants VAT will be recoverable, and we will award grants at up to 70% of costs, excluding VAT.

All projects will need to be fully completed and invoiced by 1 March 2023.

You will need to publicly acknowledge the funders for the support received.

You will need to agree for us to hold and share your information.

There was a two-stage application process

Applicants were asked to complete a simple Registration and Expression of Interest form to share a project idea.

Only those eligible were sent the main application form and a De Minimis declaration form. Three quotations for the capital works were required, as well as a calculation of the CO2 equivalent likely to be saved over a year – this was the main factor in decision-taking on the award of grants.*

The panel had a target that, if there was sufficient demand, at least four grants will be awarded to community groups.

In the context of the climate emergency and the rising costs of living, we were keen to award grants quickly. Expressions of Interest and Application Forms could be submitted at any time. We were prepared to convene the grants panel monthly from February 2022 to deal with the application pipeline.

For more information or help with completing forms applicants were encouraged to contact Jo Reilly, Low Carbon Grants Lead: jo.reilly@art-gene.co.uk

* Central government publish annual conversion factors to help business calculate green house gas emission savings.

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