Mayoral hopefuls urged to back tenfold increase in London solar capacity

Solar Energy

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London could deliver a tenfold increase in solar power over the next 10 years, closing the gap which has seen the capital become the worst performing major city and region in the UK for solar adoption. That is the conclusion of a new report released today by campaign group Greenpeace, which is calling on all of the London Mayoral candidates to come forward with a detailed plan to boost the city’s flagging solar industry. Both frontrunners, Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Conservative’s Zac Goldsmith, have said they want to boost the city’s solar sector, but the Greenpeace report challenges them to adopt specific policies to improve the adoption of solar technologies across the capital. The report highlights how just 0.5 per cent of London’s 3.4 million homes use solar power, lagging far behind adoption rates in the rest of the country.

It argues that a suite of policies could drive faster adoption of solar technologies, including “establishing a London Solar Task Force to bring together communities, investors, and industry groups; installing solar panels in unused spaces owned by Transport for London and City Hall; and loaning out roof space to community energy projects”. It also proposes the issuing of green bonds to fund solar projects in the capital and makes the case for a London equivalent of the feed-in tariff to restore some of the incentives cut last year by the government. The campaign group said analysis by consultancy Energy for London showed this range of measures could deliver a 10-fold increase in solar power across London by 2025, delivering solar panels on close to 200,000 London rooftops at a cost of 0.3 per cent of the investment needed through to 2050 to meet the capital’s rising energy demand. “London is a world leader in innovation, yet it’s missing out on the energy revolution of the century,” said Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Barbara Stoll. “From rooftop space to business know-how and grassroots enthusiasm, the capital has the complete toolkit to unleash a solar revolution that can generate jobs, investments, clean and ever cheaper energy for tens of thousands of Londoners. What’s long been missing is the political will to make it happen.

London badly needs solar champions, and we want the next mayor to be one.” Her comments were echoed by Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the Solar Trade Association. “If our capital city is to move from solar laggard to solar leader the new mayor will need a very ambitious solar vision indeed,” she said. “It is good news that the Mayoral candidates recognize the failure to deliver on solar to date, and they have set out some impressive solar policies. But Greenpeace is right that the new Mayor will need not only every power at their disposal, but a great deal of creativity and innovation to help overcome the roll-back in support from central government.” In related news, the Green Party’s Mayoral candidate Sian Berry will today announce plans to set up a new London Energy Company to ensure Crossrail is powered by 100 per cent clean electricity. The proposed company would operate as a subsidiary of Transport for London and would be tasked with installing solar panels across its own 5,700-acre estate of stations, depots, offices, other commercial units and brownfield sites. It would then also support solar farms on the outskirts of London that would ultimately seek to cover 100 per cent of the power required by Crossrail.

“There is huge potential in London for a wide range of low- and zero-carbon technologies to be used to generate heat and electricity from the sun, the wind, the ground and air using heat pumps, gas created from waste, and from London’s tides and river flows,” Berry will say. “Unfortunately Boris Johnson hasn’t even bothered to push solar PV. That means London has missed out on the UK’s solar revolution, with cities in the north of England and even Scotland installing more panels per home than London, even though we get more sun in the south. Our London Energy Company will work to turn this situation around.”