London to miss out on solar revolution unless new mayor acts

Last edited 18 February 2016 at 10:19am
18 February, 2016

London risks missing out on the jobs, investments, clean and ever cheaper energy that the solar revolution is already delivering in countries all over the world unless the next mayor takes action, a new report warns.


Campaigners are also calling on all mayoral candidates to defy the government’s attacks on solar power by setting out clear plans to kick-start a major expansion of the technology across London.


Solar power technology is going through a global investment boom as costs keep falling and more countries join the race to harness the sun’s energy, yet London is lagging behind.


Research shows that with just 0.5% of its 3.4 million homes using solar power, the UK’s capital is doing worse than any other major British city and region in terms of solar development.


With the capital facing a doubling of its electricity use by 2050, the sluggish take-up of solar energy and other decentralised projects could leave the capital more exposed to future power crunches.


But a report published today shows the next mayor can put the city back in the solar race by adopting a series of practical measures. They include 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.


The report also identifies innovative ways for the mayor to fund solar projects, from establishing a London equivalent of the Feed in Tariff slashed by the government to releasing a green bond for solar projects.


Analysis by consultancy Energy for London found this range of measures could deliver a tenfold increase in solar power across London by 2025, enough to cover close to 200,000 London rooftops. The report shows this can be achieved at a fraction (0.3%) of the overall estimated cost of boosting the capital’s energy infrastructure by the middle of the century.


The Labour and Conservative candidates have all committed to expanding London solar in different ways but stopped short of setting overall targets.


Greenpeace UK, who commissioned the report, is calling on all mayoral candidates to set out clear plans to solarise London with clear targets and funding mechanisms.


Commenting on the report, Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Barbara Stoll said:


“London is a world leader in innovation, yet it’s missing out on the energy revolution of the century. 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.”


Campaigners also fear the recent round of government cuts to financial support for clean energy could wipe out London’s chances of a solar revolution. Over a thousand jobs have already been lost because of controversial government cuts to solar, with thousands more being put at risk.


“There’s no reason why Londoners should lose out because of George Osborne’s ideological and incoherent policies,” added Barbara Stoll. “Thanks to the mayor’s powers London has a chance to decide which energy future it wants - one dependent on fossil fuels and nuclear power which may never be delivered or one built on the safe, clean, affordable renewable energy that many of the major cities are already embracing.”


Leonie Greene, Head of External Affairs at the Solar Trade Association said:


“If our capital city is to move from solar laggard to solar leader the new mayor will need a very ambitious solar vision indeed. It is good news that the Mayoral candidates recognise 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. From the Walkie Talkie to the panels on Blackfriars Bridge, from the pioneering installation on top of City Hall to solar housing estates in Brixton, the solar industry has shown it can deliver, and in style. Whether it does or not will be down to the new Mayor.”


London’s low take-up of solar energy record stands in stark contrast with a global boom in solar power. Last year saw investments in clean energy hit a record high $329 billion, much of it driven by solar and wind. The cost of solar has fallen dramatically is at a record low after falling 80% since 2008. In a key country like the US the solar industry now employs more workers than oil and gas, and three times more than coal.


To become London’s solar champion, Greenpeace is calling on all candidates to:

1. Set the target: Set an ambitious but realistic target to roll-out solar across an equivalent of 187,500 London rooftops over the next 10 years. This will deliver a tenfold increase in solar across London, which equals 750MW of installed solar capacity by 2025.

 2. Champion solar: Establish a London Solar Task Force to coordinate between public, political and industry groups, identify suitable solar sites across the Greater London Authority estate and make sure developers include solar when planning new buildings.

 3. Support community projects: Support community energy projects by loaning out suitable rooftops and exploring opportunities to offer co-investment solar bonds.

 4. Fund growth: Introduce innovative financial incentives to support the uptake of solar, for example: create a London Feed in Tariff, establish a solar grant, release a green bond specifically to fund solar projects.



Follow Greenpeace UK