Mayor launches £20,000 prize for idea to help keep London's lights on

11 April 2014

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is challenging London’s small businesses to come up with innovative solutions to reduce London’s electricity use at peak times and reduce the likelihood of blackouts blighting the capital.

With a prize package of £20,000 supported by Citi, to help bring the new idea to market, the Mayor wants London’s most enterprising small businesses to come up with 21st Century solutions to incentivise households to avoid the hours of peak demand and use domestic appliances at different times, reducing pressure on the National Grid and growing London’s sustainability sector. The winning idea will also help Londoners to save money on their fuel bills through smarter, more energy efficient use.

The UK is increasingly at risk of power shortages, with Ofgem suggesting the risk of blackouts could increase from virtually zero today to a one in 12 chance over the coming years if left unchecked. These would be most likely to occur on winter evenings, as people return home, switch on lights, televisions, kettles, and heating systems and start cooking, or in a summer heatwave when demand from air conditioning units spikes and some power stations may be ‘off-line’ for maintenance.

London’s population is increasing faster than ever before and with it electricity demand is rising by up to four per cent each year. The Mayor does not want London’s future growth and economic success to be threatened by a lack of electrical capacity. He is keen to act swiftly to avoid pressure on the supply - which could lead to special measures such as rolling blackouts, or brownouts when the voltage is reduced for periods of time - as well as saving Londoners' energy bills.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: “It’s imperative that we do everything we can to ensure London has a reliable and secure energy supply for the future. Alongside measures to generate more of our own energy in the capital, and to encourage businesses to be more responsible, I want to make it easier for Londoners to do their bit, have better control over their energy use and be rewarded for it. By pioneering a smarter, more sustainable approach, with bright ideas from London’s most innovative small businesses, we can help keep Londoners’ lights bright.”

UK Country Officer at Citi, James Bardrick said: "With 100 million people moving to urban areas each year, developing solutions to the challenges that cities face is critical. Citi is committed to being a part of the solution. Through our Citi for Cities initiative, we partner with governments, businesses, citizens and communities to identify and implement solutions that help generate jobs, increase efficiency and ultimately enhance quality of life in cities around the world. That's why we are delighted to be supporting these Awards and look forward to the innovative solutions that emerge from the vibrant community of small and medium enterprises here in London."

Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive at the Energy Saving Trust, says: “Being more energy efficient in the home is by far the most cost effective way of lowering our demand for energy, ensuring a secure energy supply, achieving a warm and healthy home and lowering our energy bills. That’s why we’re supportive of the Mayor of London’s latest initiative that looks to provide solutions to encourage energy efficiency in the millions of homes across London and put people firmly in control of their own energy-use. By simply making some energy efficient changes to everyday behaviours, the average family could save as much as £130 on their annual energy bills, as well as avoiding 500 kg of carbon dioxide emissions a year*.”

Professor Goran Strbac, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “I fully support initiatives that give Londoners the opportunity to get involved in helping the city and the country to use electricity more sustainably. Smart demand participation, both in the home and from businesses, could deliver substantial economic, security and carbon benefits. This type of active involvement will revolutionise the way our electricity supply system operates and help us evolve to a more secure and sustainable future.”

Part of the Mayor’s wider commitment to safeguard London’s energy supply and help grow London’s £25bn low carbon sector, the winning idea will be presented with the £20,000 prize, contributed by supporter Citi, during a summit of world cities at City Hall in June. The deadline for applications is 17th April. 

Notes to editors

*This is based on a gas heated three bedroom semi-detached house adopting a five energy saving behaviours consistently over a year. Turning down the room thermostat from 22 degrees to 21 degrees (£73 saving), using the washing machine at 30 degrees rather than high temperatures (£6), not overfilling the kettle (£7), taking one minute off every shower (£29), and line drying your clothes rather than using a tumble dryer in summer (£18. Using the average electricity price of 13.52p/kWh and gas price of 4.21p/kWh, valid for 2014.

1. The Mayor of London and six world cities are partnering to find innovative worldwide solutions to urban problems together with Citymart’s LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future awards programme. London or UK businesses looking to scale up innovative solutions for export to other world cities could enter a range of challenges from regeneration to energy, published by cities including Lagos, Moscow and Glasgow.

2. The Mayor is interested in a solution to encourage households to reduce electricity use at peak times. The UK’s generating reserve could drop to as low as two per cent by 2016 – leading to an increased risk of blackouts or brownouts during periods of peak demand. There is a £20,000 prize fund supported by Citi for the winner to demonstrate and market the solution with the Mayor of London.

3. The five finalists from each challenge will be invited to take part in an exclusive event Cities Summit: Solutions Worth Sharing at London’s City Hall on 24 June 2014. The event will be hosted by Mayor of London Boris Johnson together with Citymart and supported by Citi. SMEs from London’s innovation, smart city and low carbon technology sectors will be invited to meet decision-makers from 30 world city governments and learn how to do business with similar cities. Any London or UK companies that win these challenges could also receive a package of support to scale up their solutions.

4. Companies can find out more and submit their solution to a range of cities’ challenges by 10 April at: http://citymart.com/Call/llga2014

5. The Mayor’s challenge to SMEs is published here, with a deadline to submit solutions by 17 April: http://citymart.com/Call/llga2014/London