Green Party calls for new London energy supplier to support solar take-up

  • city hall

    The Green Party's Jenny Jones has called on the London Mayor to consider the establishment of a greener energy supply initiative than the Licence Lite option currently being developed. Image: Bill Smith Flickr

The Mayor of London is facing calls to set up a green energy supply business for Transport for London and the city’s homes and businesses which would seek to support increased uptake in solar installations.

The Green Party’s London Assembly member Jenny Jones has published a report outlining why the mayor should establish a fully licensed not-for-profit operation named the London Energy Company (LEC).

Instead of the Licence Lite electricity supply licence operation currently being developed by City Hall, LEC would seek to support and accelerate the development of low carbon generation in the capital to be used to meet TfL’s energy needs, as well as provide cheaper clean energy to those most in need across the city.

In her feasibility report on the LEC, Jones claims the initiative would provide a better-resourced delivery vehicle for the mayor’s energy and climate programmes than the current Licence Lite plan, which will allow the GLA to procure electricity from decentralised energy (DE) generators in London.

The LEC alternative would promote the growth of low carbon generation by offering power purchase agreements (PPAs) to these generators which provide a fairer market price, or longer term contract, than those offered by the electricity supply market at present.

Like the Mayor’s scheme currently under development, this would place the new supplier in competition with the current power suppliers. However, it would increase the volumes of electricity needed beyond that just required by TfL, as a result of an increased customer base made up of London homes and other businesses.

It would drive the uptake of domestic solar either through PPAs or through new tariffs to households where PV could be installed free of charge, in return for securing a long-term supply contract

In addition, the LEC report also suggests the development of a new major decentralised generation plant, which could take the form of a large scale solar installation. According to the report, TfL generates just 0.03% of its renewable electricity from 11 solar arrays with an installed capacity of around 250kW. Jones points out how low this is for an organisation with an estate of around 5,700 acres which includes more than 30 head office buildings, three London Transport Museum sites, Victoria Coach Station, 61 car parks and several hundred London Underground sites.

She claims the establishment of the supplier would support greater take-up of solar as an energy source for TfL, which has been impacted by the government’s decision to reduce support under the feed-in tariff. The reductions imposed on the support scheme have meant TfL will currently only consider solar when planning new developments, discounting it from retrofit projects. If the organisation were to adopt the LEC plan, it would be encouraged to increase its generation through solar installations while homes and businesses would also be supported to do the same.

Currently, Greater London represents an area of poor take-up for solar, with figures published last week showing just 54MW of domestic installations, equivalent to just 1.6% of the UK total. However last week Zac Goldsmith, the Tory nominee vying to replace Boris Johnson as mayor in May, echoed calls from his Labour counterpart Sadiq Khan for TfL to do more to install renewables on its own estate.

Once established, Jones says LEC could use its income to fund energy efficiency investment programmes, support the uptake of decentralised generation or provide specialist advice to help London households struggling to pay bills.

According to current London Mayor Boris Johnson, TfL is targeting low and zero carbon electricity generators in London to source 20% of its annual electricity demand by 2016, with this to be doubled by 2020.

Last month Johnson’s office refuted claims that he had struck a secret deal with Big Six utility Npower to act as a back-up supplier under the Licence Lite scheme, seemingly defying the project’s purpose.

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