An innovative new business-focused project in Shropshire is set to drastically reduce carbon emissions.
The Low Carbon Communities for Business scheme will target companies in Bishops Castle, Ellesmere, Cleobury Mortimer and South Oswestry through grants and support, with major cost savings predicted for those taking part.
They have been chosen because of excellent renewable energy resources, poor transport infrastructure and the fact that they are not connected to a mains gas supply.
The pilot project, which aims to save 6,665 tonnes of carbon dioxide over three years, builds on existing carbon-reduction activity in Bishop's Castle but will focus on businesses for the first time.
The Advantage West Midlands-funded Rural Regeneration Zone is contributing #555,000 to the #1.84 million scheme.
Other funding will come from the Department of Trade and Industry's Low Carbon Buildings Programme and contributions from businesses taking part. The project will be managed by Shropshire County Council in partnership with the Marches Energy Agency and is part of a wider agreement currently being finalised with the Government to allow Shropshire greater freedom to deliver sustainable low carbon communities.
A key element of the project will be a capital grants scheme for low carbon interventions in businesses.
Examples of the sort of projects that may receive funding include ground source heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar panels.
Nick Davis, owner of Cleobury Mortimer-based brewery Hobson's, is hoping that the scheme will help him to implement a process where the spent grain from the hops he uses to brew his beer is used as a potential biomass product, which could ultimately produce enough energy to power his business premises.
Support will also be available to assist low carbon and sustainable energy start-ups.
Examples of projects that could receive funding under the project include grants towards the purchasing of equipment to allow plumbers to enter the solar thermal market or for farmers to crush oil seed to produce bio-diesel.
The project will be launched in early 2007.
Peter Pawsey, chairman of the Rural Regeneration Zone, said: "This will not only help to reduce carbon emissions, it also opens up opportunities for Shropshire companies to enter the fast-growing and lucrative environmental economy.
"The hope is that, if successful, this project will be rolled out to other areas of the Zone as part of our ongoing commitment to environmental excellence."
Carolyn Downs, chief executive of Shropshire County Council, said: "The Low Carbon Communities for Business Project is a fine example of Shropshire's ability to create effective partnerships. We are delighted to be working with the Rural Regeneration Zone and other partners to diversify the local economy, while once again taking a lead on action to combat climate change."
Richard Davies, director of the Marches Energy Agency, said: "We seem to hear ever more stark warnings about the dangers of human induced climate change on a daily basis.
"It is really positive that through the support of the Rural Regeneration Zone businesses can now be a part of the solution."