Mayor & TfL launch low carbon future for Greenwich Power Station

08 January 2015

• New gas engines to deliver cheaper low carbon electricity for the Tube network • Potential to heat up to 20,000 Greenwich homes, improving air quality through lower boiler emissions and reducing utility bills for residents by around 10 per cent The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and Transport for London today launched plans to revamp London’s historic Greenwich Power Station for the 21st century, and transform it to generate low carbon power for London’s Tube network and heat for local homes and buildings.

The installation of up to 6 brand new gas engines in the building’s vast Old Turbine Hall, originally the electricity generator for London’s trams, will provide cheaper, low carbon power for London’s Tube network, making it more self-reliant and limiting the risk of rising energy prices. The waste heat would be channelled into a brand new local heat network to supply hot water and heating for local buildings, including schools and homes, and reducing utility bills for local residents. All 6 engines would have the potential to heat the equivalent of 20,000 homes, as well as improving local air quality by reducing boiler emissions of nitrogen dioxide.

Built in 1906, Greenwich is one of the oldest operational power stations in the world. It continues to fulfil an important role as an emergency back-up supply for the London Underground, to enable safe evacuation of passengers and staff should the National Grid go down. Once established the new technology will substantially increase the power station’s use and by 2025, the new engines would provide up to 155,000 megawatt hours of electricity, around 13 per cent of the Tube’s annual requirement and equivalent to supplying 39,000 homes.

The new combined heat and power plant at Greenwich is part of the Mayor’s work to invest in the city’s burgeoning low carbon sector, encouraging more local energy producers and increasing London’s resilience. The new engines will be quieter and cleaner than the existing engines and up to 90 per cent efficient. They will run on natural gas (able to convert to lower carbon fuels in the future), create no smoke, and emissions will be tightly controlled by the Environment Agency.

Today, the Mayor, who has a target to produce 25 per cent of London’s energy from local sources by 2025, toured the power station’s Old Turbine Hall where the new engines are to be installed and turned on an existing emergency back-up engine from the original 1970s control room as part of a regular test.

He said: “This Victorian landmark, one of the original ‘Cathedrals of Power’, has a long and vital future supporting London’s essential infrastructure. With cleaner, more efficient and environmentally friendly new systems, Greenwich Power Station will be brought back up to full use, and go on to perform the function it was originally created for well into the 21st century. This important investment in London’s growing low carbon technology sector will not only help power our Tube network, but will also reduce pressure on the National Grid, cut utility bills for local residents, and reduce air pollution from boilers."

The installation of the new engines will be staggered over the next 20 years to match the development of the heat network. Preparatory work to install the first two engines will begin in April, and they are expected to be up and running by 2017.

Mike Brown, MVO, Managing Director of London Underground, said: “We’ve already taken steps to minimise the energy used by the Tube network and reduce our carbon footprint, such as new trains with regenerative braking and new low energy lighting. By using lower carbon energy we will be able to minimise emissions further and bear down on the operating costs of the Tube.”

The new heat network could save the Royal Borough of Greenwich and residents in homes which are part of the heat network up to 10 per cent on their annual gas bill, including £2,000-3,000 on boiler replacements, and around £150 a year in boiler maintenance. For the homes and buildings able to become part of the heat network, mostly in larger blocks and public buildings like schools and libraries, it would also help mitigate against future price rises from energy suppliers. Plans to install the heat network are being developed by the Mayor in partnership with the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Councillor Denise Hyland, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich said: “This building is an historic landmark in Royal Greenwich which many people will be familiar with. We’re already seeing the environmental benefits of installing heat networks in other new developments in the borough and the cost-savings they bring to our residents. What’s important about these proposals is that the power station – currently being vastly under-used - can be brought back into full use in a way which delivers a much more environmentally friendly energy solution for the tube network and the local area. We will continue our discussions with the Mayor of London and Transport for London so see how we might progress the proposals for this building to supply energy to local homes.”

With London’s population expected to grow by an additional 1 million in the next ten years, demand for electricity in the capital is expected to grow by up to four per cent a year. Investment in London's power infrastructure is a priority identified in the Mayor’s Infrastructure Plan. It is integral to protecting the capital's economy, and helping to boost jobs and growth.


Notes to editors: • Greenwich Power Station was built in 1906 to generate steam power for London’s former Tram network. It was designed by William Edward Riley, the Chief Architect to the London County Council. From 1968-1972 the power station was modernised , all steam generation was discontinued, and gas turbines were introduced to supplement output from London Underground’s Lots Road Power Station during peak times and as a standby supply. When London Underground shut Lots Road and switched to the National Grid for power supplies in 1998 Greenwich became the provider of London Underground’s Central Emergency Power Supply. It now runs 6 engines which provide power in the event of partial or total loss of National Grid supplies to enable the safe evacuation of passengers and staff from the underground network. The proposed works will not impact on the building’s external appearance. • The Transport for London business plan has set aside funds for the first two of six planned new more efficient low carbon energy generating gas engines. The Mayor and the Royal Borough of Greenwich are progressing plans to develop a district heating network which will use waste heat from the new engines as they provide electricity for the London Underground network. • The Mayor encourages smaller energy producers through his London Plan which requires new developments to seek to incorporate Combined Heat and Power facilities, and through his ‘Energy for London’ application to become a junior electricity supplier which will allow him to buy power from small generators at a better rate and sell it on to other public bodies, boosting the low carbon economy, and helping to secure London’s future energy supply. • The Mayor expects to be able to give small electricity producers up to 30 per cent more for their excess energy than existing suppliers do, which he will then sell on to TfL, the Met and others at cost price. London will be the first public authority in the country to receive a brand new type of ‘junior’ electricity licence, and the Mayor expects to be buying and selling power by later this year. • Improving the viability of local energy projects is expected to help unlock more than £300 million worth of investment for 22 new heat and power projects already in the pipeline. In the longer term, it could help generate over £8 billion of investment and around 850 jobs a year until 2025.

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