London mayor candidates unanimous in support for more ambitious solar vision

  • Goldsmith.

    Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith (pictured) defended his party's cuts to the feed-in tariff. Image: Policy Exchange.

The leading candidates to succeed Boris Johnson as London mayor were unanimous in their support for the capital’s solar industry at a hustings event last Friday evening.

And all four candidates – Labour’s Sadiq Khan, Conservative Zac Goldsmith, Lib Dem’s Caroline Pidgeon and the Green Party’s Sian Berry – said they would pursue a more ambitious target than the 10-fold increase suggested by NGOs last month.

The event brought to a close Greener London week and answering a specific question on solar targets first, Khan said that the UK’s progress in solar PV was at risk of being lost due to cuts to the feed-in tariff.

“What we need is a mayor on the side of solar energy and on the side of the 21st century. We were leading the world in terms of solar, but if you cut the subsidies then don’t be surprised if it leaves the country,” he said.

Khan had previously released his plans for solar deployment, which include the setting up of an ‘Energy for London’ supplier with its own solar remit, but he expanded slightly by suggesting that the capital could look to boost the financial feasibility of solar by utilising the capital’s “procurement power” and bulk buying panels.

Goldsmith however started his answer by defending his party’s cuts to subsidy support, claiming that the new regime did not make significant advances impossible and that returns from installations were still sufficient enough to not make investing in the technology “feel like a philanthropic gesture”.

He too has already revealed how he would boost solar deployment in London should he win May’s election, but was the only candidate to mention anti-dumping duties attached to panels. Goldsmith claimed that the MIP’s repeal would “drop the price [of solar] by about a third”, echoing calls from his party’s energy secretary Amber Rudd on the subject.

The Liberal Democrats’ plans for solar in London had not been released until the event but Pidgeon brought up the possibility of introducing a London feed-in tariff to run parallel to the national scheme until 2020. She said that the addition would “double the rate of installation in London”.

The concept of a London FiT has been referenced before as one possible way of boosting flagging domestic deployment in the capital, but in January the current mayor Boris Johnson shot the proposals down, claiming it would be unnecessary.

Pidgeon said she would also establish a “solar task force” to audit buildings within the GLA group and look to challenge larger private organisations to adopt solar, referencing big retailers and industrial estates in particular.

Sian Berry concluded by stating that the Green Party would hope to enable London to derive almost a third (30%) of its energy from solar power by the 2030 and reserved a parting shot for the current incumbent. “We’re really far behind [in solar] on other places…Boris Johnson hasn’t bothered with that at all,” she said.

Londoners will take to the polls on 5 May 2016.

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