Solar power on the Transport for London estate

MQT on 2019-03-21
Session date: 
March 21, 2019
Question By: 
Caroline Russell
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


What are you doing to maximise solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment on the Transport for London (TfL) estate?


Solar power on the Transport for London estate

Solar power on the Transport for London estate

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chairman.  Our Solar Action Plan sets an ambition for London to achieve 1 gigawatt of installed solar capacity by 2030 and TfL is directly contributing to this.  Through the RE:FIT programme, part of my Energy for Londoners programme, TfL has committed to deliver 1.1 megawatts of generating capacity by retrofitting solar panels across its larger existing rooftops.  Work is underway to deliver on this.  When constructing new buildings, TfL is integrating solar PV into the design where feasible.  Solar PV has been incorporated into the Whitechapel Elizabeth line station and the Old Oak Common Depot.


However, the lack of support from the Government for solar severely undermines our efforts to deliver solar on a large scale on buildings across London.  The removal also of the feed‑in tariff for new solar applications this month, coupled with the Government’s increase in business rates for buildings, makes solar schemes less commercially attractive.  I am lobbying the Government to improve the affordability of new solar, to address the business rates issue and to minimise the gap between the removal of the feed‑in tariff and the introduction of the proposed Smart Export Guarantee.


However, despite these setbacks, there is still huge opportunity for solar and other renewables across the whole of the TfL estate, not just the buildings.  Using funding from my Decentralised Energy Enabling Project, TfL has commissioned a study of its land holdings and track sites that could offer potential for solar.  This study is underway and will be completed later this year [2019].  TfL will progress the most promising sites for further development.  In fact, that was a point made by the Assembly Member at People’s Question Time, a good point made last week.


My Environment Strategy also sets an ambition for all the electricity powering TfL’s rail services to be zero‑carbon by 2030.  At the end of 2018 TfL undertook a market engagement exercise to understand the potential for third parties to directly supply low‑carbon electricity to TfL.


Caroline Russell AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  There is huge variability in the number of solar panels installed on station buildings.  In 2012 Blackfriars Station became the world’s largest solar‑powered bridge and it provides 50% of the station’s energy needs.  It is a really good example.  You mentioned you have managed to get solar at Whitechapel and at Old Oak, but there are a lot of recent station redevelopments like Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon Underground and Paddington Station, for example, where there are very few solar panels included.


Have you considered putting solar panels on all new Crossrail 2 stations that have outside buildings and platforms to maximise their solar generating capacity?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, I would be astonished if, in relation to the Crossrail 2 stations, that was not the case because there is no alternative.  We have to be making sure we have more ways to reduce the carbon ‑‑


Caroline Russell AM:  That is great.  In that case, could you ask someone to get back to me with any details on that?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I agree to write to the Assembly Member?  Is that all right?


Caroline Russell AM:  Yes.  Thank you. 


You mentioned the mapping exercise to assess the whole TfL building portfolio for potential solar generation capacity alongside an assessment of TfL‑owned undeveloped and trackside land.  It was reported in November last year [2018] ‑ and you alluded to this ‑ that TfL’s Senior Energy Strategy Manager said that the problems of installing solar panels trackside have been overcome and that investors were waiting to fund it, which sounds great.  Did you look at the solar generating potential of the entire 450 miles of train tracks in London?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, I am sorry.  I do not have that information.  I am really sorry.  Can I write to you with that?  I do not have that here.


Caroline Russell AM:  Please do write to me.  That is it for my questions.  Thanks very much.