London Assembly calls on Mayor Boris Johnson to lobby against solar FiT proposals

The London Assembly has called on Mayor of London Boris Johnson to lobby on behalf of the solar industry and provide “political leadership” against feed-in tariff proposals.

The consultation on controversial proposals to cut the FiT by as much as 87% closes at 11:45pm today and the GLA has issued its ‘Bring me sunshine! How London’s homes could generate more solar energy’ report, which proposes several ways in which the capital can tackle its flagging solar deployment.

Set against the backdrop of the cuts, the report aims to address several perceived problems with solar deployment in London and issues a number of recommendations, mainly focusing on what the Mayor and his successor need to prioritise to help stimulate solar deployment in the capital.

Members of the GLA have repeatedly spoken of the lacklustre deployment of solar in London, and today’s report highlights that if London had installed the UK average number of solar installations it would have saved an additional 100,000 tonnes of CO2 and added £50 million to London’s economy through feed-in tariff payments. Just 2.5% of total payments under the FiT have gone to London-based installations.

“He [the mayor] should argue for greater stability in solar PV policy, and gradual, predictable reductions in subsidies until at least grid parity is reached.

“He should also press the government to restore the ‘pre-accreditation’ mechanism which helped community energy projects to manage longer lead times and to secure financing based on guaranteed rates,” the report states.

Some of the recommendations in the report include a potential change to planning policy which would only permit major building developments if they included solar PV within the plans if possible, and a review of all guidance issued to residents by London borough councils.

The GLA has also called on the Mayor to increase the rollout of solar PV on GLA-owned estate and GLA-funded housing, echoing the Cabinet Office’s plans within its Solar Strategy document of last year to deploy 1GW of solar on government estate.

Central to the report is an upcoming ‘London Energy Plan’, which it says must set out options to increase PV under different tenures, analyse the reasons behind London’s poor performance to date and increase the promotion of cutting-edge solar technologies such as BIPV and storage.

Boris Johnson has previously spoken of his concern for the solar industry in the wake of government cuts and looked to stimulate deployment through its RE:NEW and RE:FIT retrofit initiatives, however this morning it was revealed that these have been affected by the proposed cuts.

The Mayor’s chief environmental adviser Matthew Pencharz, speaking at an event to celebrate the opening of a solar array on the roof of the Tate Modern this morning, revealed that of £7.14 million of installations in the RE:NEW pipeline, £1.6 million had been cancelled. With £600,000 worth in either contract of procurement phase, £5.1 million remains pending and Pencharz said there was a “high risk of reduction and cancellation” of the pipeline should the FiT proposals be enacted as intended.

Environment committee chair Darren Johnson said: “Our report demonstrates the many benefits to the capital of increasing our capacity to generate domestic solar power.

“We’ve seen this week the impact of solar power on London’s economy, with reports that job losses could be in the thousands should the changes to the FiT go ahead.

“This serves to highlight that growth in the capital’s green energy sector would create jobs and skills for many Londoners. The environmental benefits are also not to be overlooked, as an increase in domestic solar power will ultimately contribute to climate stability, which affects us all. 

“Whilst we appreciate that there are limitations, our report recognises that both the current and incoming Mayor have a significant role to play.”

The report does include a minority opinion from Conservative members of the GLA, which accuses the report of over-emphasising the government’s FiT consultation, claiming that a “constant focus on negative predictions” risked them becoming a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

Solar Trade Association head of external affairs Leonie Greene said London has been “the laggard of the UK on solar”, adding that it should be an “international leader in this technology”.

“Unfortunately ambitions for solar in London are under threat. The Committee is quite right to highlight that Government's current extreme proposals for solar could scupper attempts to drag London up from its low performance today. Helpfully Mayor Boris Johnson has voiced his concern and we hope he will support our efforts to find a solution that enables solar to take-off across the capital.”