Supporting Solar in the Capital

MQT on 2016-06-22
Session date: 
June 22, 2016
Question By: 
Leonie Cooper
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Following what, in my view, were the environmental wilderness years under the last Mayor, leaving London with the lowest amount of installed solar power capacity of any region in the UK, what steps will you take to ensure the capital benefits from 'the solar revolution'?


Answer for Supporting Solar in the Capital

Answer for Supporting Solar in the Capital

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chairman.  Solar photovoltaic (PV) is one of many low-carbon energy technologies that I will support to help London move towards becoming a zero-carbon city by 2050.


Under the former Mayor, London had the lowest installed solar PV capacity of any region in the country.  As of the end of March this year London had 20,179 installations, which is 2.7% of the installations nationally.  My new Environment Strategy will include steps to help realise the potential for solar PV generation in our capital through incorporating my approach to solar energy.  While there are many challenges to deployment of solar PV in London, the levels to date have been low.  Although London has the third largest installed PV capacity on community buildings of all regions and has seen a significant level of deployment on new buildings, we need to do more on retrofitting solar to existing buildings.  We are a city of roofs and so we have the potential.  Recent changes to the feed-in tariff supporting solar PV have affected the industry and supply chain and seen a drop off in deployment rates.  However, as the cost of solar continue to fall and new technology such as battery storage becomes more affordable, the business case of solar should improve.


Through my Environment Strategy and the establish of Energy for Londoners I will work to overcome some of the challenges to deployment through closer working with the London solar industry, exploring financing and mechanisms to make PV more affordable and working with the outer boroughs to increase deployment in those areas.  I will also be leading by example by increasing the installation of solar on GLA and TfL properties and land.  In the shorter term I will be supporting License Lite to create a market for larger-scale solar energy and my retrofit programmes will be looking at how they can better support deployment.


Leonie Cooper AM:  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor, for that comprehensive answer.  I just wondered if I could come back on a couple of points.


In October 2015 the previous Assembly Environment Committee published a report entitled Bring me sunshine! after carrying out a very thorough investigation into solar energy and it contains eight recommendations.  Unlike Assembly Member Boff, who obviously thinks you spent the last seven week sitting around reading previous reports, I am not going to assume that you have necessarily read it, nor indeed that the officers in your team have read it, either.  However, I do wonder whether you might ask some of your officers to have a look at it.  It contains some very useful recommendations and I wondered if you might consider adopting most, if not all, eight of them as part of your forward-going strategy.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, can I suggest that the Assembly Member sits down with the team we have and goes through them to discuss what our response is to the report because it is a good report and we should do it justice?  I worry about the brevity of time here and we cannot do it justice, but let us organise that.


Leonie Cooper AM:  That would be most welcome, Mr Mayor.  I just wondered if I could come back to some of your earlier points.


Unfortunately, we are starting from an incredibly low base here in London, and it does seem that the previous Mayor was no more interested in increasing solar installs than the Conservative Government is, given the very severe and sudden cuts to the feed-in tariff.  Whilst some cuts obviously relate to a decrease in cost, one would accept those, but it is just the very sudden cuts and they have had a very unhelpful effect on the industry.


Do you think that a London feed-in tariff and a big push around community solar, as well as your plans for Energy for London, are the kinds of things that we would need to look at to make London a solar leader again?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  You are right to be critical of my inheritance, but Bristol, Nottingham and Scotland have all made rapid progress and there are things we can learn from them, but also in cities across Europe.  I want to pinch their ideas.  Energy for Londoners is all about scale.  If we can build up the scale we can do the feed-in stuff, but also there are some communities across London who are already starting to do this and we can learn from them as well.


Leonie Cooper AM:  Finally, Mr Mayor, I just wondered if you could say something in a tiny bit more detail about the need and the difficulty about increasing solar in the private rented sector with a mobile population of people renting.  As part of the wider work on the private rented sector, which we have touched on this morning, would you include in that work looking at how we might incentivise the landlords, as well as making their properties more energy efficient, to think about installing solar?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  You are right to raise this challenge you have, but just do the maths.  There are 2 million Londoners renting from private landlords.  London has a higher proportion of flats and tenanted properties than other regions, which make installations more complex, and you have to think about innovative ways of getting solar on these buildings.


As our understanding of these barriers develops, my officers will work with barriers to getting solar on these properties.  My officers will work with key stakeholders to develop strategies, policies and programmes with clear actions for solar and other low carbon energy supply measures in London.  Other cities where there are properties let do manage to have solar.  One of the reasons could be because they are longer tenancies, certainty for the tenant and for the landlord.  Clearly, because we have short tenancies, the same dynamic does not apply.  We have to think about a way of doing that.  I do not have the answer yet, but that means the officers speaking to and listening to key stakeholders.


Leonie Cooper AM:  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor.  That is very helpful indeed.