Winter blackouts

MQT on 2015-09-16
Session date: 
September 16, 2015
Question By: 
Murad Qureshi
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Following latest figures from National Grid, what assurances can you provide to Londoners that the lights will stay on this winter?


Answer for Winter blackouts

Answer for Winter blackouts

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  This really is partly associated with the last question.  We do have a concern about the security of supply now in London and actually generally throughout the country.  I read the other day that in 2016/17 we are going to need 56 gigawatts for this country and we can only guarantee 54 gigawatts.  I am very concerned that we have a resilient decentralised energy supply.  One of the things we are working on is trying to manage demand so that we actually reduce demand where we can, help Londoners to keep the lights off, keep bills down and supporting all sorts of apps and things that help households and companies to do that, as well as retrofitting and all the rest of it.  The solution has to be to build more supply.                                                                

Murad Qureshi AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  What prompted me to put in this question was the National Grid saying there is a gap of 1.2% between the generating capacity and peak demand over this autumn and winter.  We all know what happens when regimes or governments do not supply the lights.  They are thrown out of government.

Have you not actually been sleepwalking into this one?  I have been asking this question for a number of years during your whole term.  I notice, for example, you have missed your own target for decentralised energy production in 2015.  Should you not at least now come out with your London Energy Plan which you have yet to produce to tackle this problem head-on?  Now we are coming into the last eight months of your regime are we going to see sight of that at all?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I saw the story you quoted that prompted you to put this question.  He was very emphatic that he did not think we would see brownouts or blackouts.  To be fair to him, that is what he said.  He is right.  It is not actually going to happen.  There is adequate supply.  London is not responsible, alas, for energy supply.  What we had is a chronic failure to invest in the kind of energy sources that this country needs.  We have just done this absolutely crazy deal with the French, EDF Energy, to produce nuclear energy which shows no sign of working and looks like being unbelievably expensive at approximately £93 a kilowatt hour.  It is a huge amount of money we are spending on nuclear energy.  Hinkley Point B [nuclear power station] does not seem to coming down the track. 

We need to be looking at building many more gas-fired power stations.  At the moment, I am afraid, it is taking too long.  There was a chronic failure under the Labour government to invest in power generation.

Murad Qureshi AM:  Your government has been in power for the last five years.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Everybody got upset, particularly under the regime of the late lamented Ed Miliband [The Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP, former Secretary of State] when he was with the Department of Energy and Climate Change.  There was an obsession with building windmills and all this kind of malarkey.  In the end it did not pull the skin off a rice pudding.  That is why we have an energy supply problem in this country at the moment.

Murad Qureshi AM:  You have not answered my question.  When are we going to get the London Energy Plan?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  What we need is a thorough going nuclear power programme in which we are not ripped off by the French and the Chinese.  We need to build more gas-fired power stations.

Murad Qureshi AM:  Can I bring this back to London, Mr Mayor?  You are right that National Grid did produce national figures.  I have not been able to obtain regional figures.  That would have made the question even more precise.  The last time the Environment Committee looked into this matter London, as a region, takes up 30% of the energy supply and only provides 2%.  There is a huge gap just on that basis.  That is why you should have had, in your term, a London Energy Plan.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  No.  Murad, you are not being fair to us.

Murad Qureshi AM:  Actually this needs strategic planning.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  We have done it.

Murad Qureshi AM:  It has been one of your responsibilities.  Can you just tell me when this Plan is going to come out?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  We now have regular infrastructure meetings in which we discuss - with the energy suppliers, the boroughs and everybody concerned - the difficulties in getting the sub-stations and in getting power to developments.  The Shard [skyscraper in central London] takes as much juice as the entire town of Colchester. 

Murad Qureshi AM:  Precisely.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  It is true.  One of the problems with the Battersea development is that we did not from the very beginning put in the power and the sub-stations.  We are now gripping all that and making sure as we go forward with developments across London - on all the brownfield sites in the city - that we have the energy supply as well.  It is not just a question of power generation.  It is also having the networks and having the sub-stations and not just dissipating the power after you generate it.

Murad Qureshi AM:  Indeed, Mr Mayor.  I quite agree: the Shard is probably consuming much too much energy in comparison to Colchester and the rest of London.  That is an explanation for why we need to have a London Energy Plan which you have not produced so far in all your time here at City Hall.  Are we going to see sight of something ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  It’s in the Infrastructure Plan.

Murad Qureshi AM:  Mr Mayor, more electric cars and what have you are great and should be encouraged but you need to provide the juice.  That is the kind of thing I am talking about.  Given your comments about renewables and your lack of delivery on solar power, for example, in Greater London that is why we need that strategic perspective from you and I am not getting it.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  You should read the long-term Infrastructure Plan because it is all in there.  I would be very happy to supply it to you if you have not got a copy.

Murad Qureshi AM:  I will leave it at that.  I understand that is an acceptance you have not produced your London Energy Plan and we are not likely to see it.  Thank you.