Mayor of London Boris Johnson pours cold water over potential for London feed-in tariff

  • London.

    London had installed just 54MW of residential solar by December 2015, six times less than the south east. Image: Daniel Chapman/Flickr.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has appeared to shelve plans for a potential London feed-in tariff, claiming such a scheme would not be necessary with returns on investment set out under the new regime.

London’s flagging solar deployment has been the subject of discussion recently after various members of the London Assembly scrutinised the mayor’s track record on renewable energy.

The criticism has been backed up by deployment data issued by the Department of Energy and Climate Change which showed that there had been just 54MW of residential solar deployed in the capital by December 2015, by some distance the lowest level of deployment by region in the UK.

Put into context, the south east of the country, with a similar number of households, has deployed almost six-times as much solar in the same time frame.

While the London Assembly had concluded that the capital’s comparatively large number of rented properties had created complications that needed to be resolved, it had been suggested that a ‘London FiT’ would also serve to stimulate additional deployment so that London matched other areas of the country.

While no specific scheme was put forward, it had previously been suggested that a London FiT act as a top-up to the nationwide scheme. London boroughs would put forward additional funding which would support a set number of installations each year.

Last week London Assembly member Murad Qureshi questioned the mayor over what progress he had made investigating the potential for such a scheme, however in his response – published yesterday – the mayor has said such a scheme would not be necessary.

“I am of the view that we need a sustainable transition to subsidy-free solar PV. It appears that the changes to the FIT, whilst significant, should still ensure a solid return on investment of householders,” Johnson said.

The mayor went on to cite the Solar Trade Association’s calculations that solar could still deliver tax-free, inflation-linked returns of around 5%.

“This is still higher than most savings accounts, so I do not believe a London FIT is necessary to help the market make the transition to operating without subsidy given this rate of return,” he added.

Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Murad Qureshi said: “It’s very disappointing for the Mayor to rule out of hand the concept of a London FIT, we need to be investigating all possible options for promoting solar in London at a time when the renewables sector has come under sustained attack from government policy.”

The two front-runners to replace Boris Johnson as mayor – Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan – have both made pledges to ramp up solar installations in London, but with a specific focus on commercial buildings and Transport for London estate, while Green Party assembly member Jenny Jones has called for the establishment of a mayoral energy supplier with a specific focus on growing renewable energy deployment.

The Greater London Authority is scheduled to publish a ‘London Energy Plan’ in the coming weeks, detailing the challenges faced in supplying the capital’s energy demand sustainably.

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