Could London become a world-leading sustainable city?

The new London Mayor is committed to being the greenest-ever. Rob Owens, SmartestEnergy’s head of Demand Side Management, was one of the speakers at an event staged this week by the Association for Decentralised Energy and Arup to look at how his ambitions could be delivered.

Just days after Sadiq Khan was elected as London Mayor last month, a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) underlined just how important cities will be in the drive to reduce global emissions.

Responsible for almost two-thirds of the world’s energy demand and 70% of carbon emissions from the energy sector, cities are crucial to achieving the Paris Agreement targets. As centres of economic growth and innovation, they are also ideal test-beds for the innovations - from more sustainable transport systems to smart grids - that will help lead the transition to a low-carbon energy sector.

The release of the IEA report proved to be well-timed given the new London Mayor’s ambitious manifesto commitments on energy. With its scale and standing, London undoubtedly has an opportunity to be at the forefront of the sustainable cities movement.

Khan’s far-reaching vision for a clean energy revolution across the capital may raise eyebrows among sceptics but by making the most of the opportunities offered by local generation and supply, smarter consumption and much greater use of renewables, it is achievable.

Power to the people

As part of his ‘Energy for Londoners’ initiative to ensure a clean, affordable and 21st century energy system, Khan is exploring opportunities for the capital to follow other cities in the UK in looking to supply energy to residents itself and to also support major growth in locally-owned renewable generation and initiatives such as district heating schemes.

Through SmartestEnergy’s work with many community energy projects we have seen first-hand the benefits which decentralised generation and supply can bring.

By setting itself up as a fully-fledged energy supplier, the GLA could reduce energy costs for residents and small businesses, tackle fuel poverty and take a proactive role in reducing carbon emissions.

Smarter approach to consumption

Harnessing advances in technology also offers exciting opportunities. The roll-out of smart meters across every home in the capital for example will provide a platform for the new Mayor to drive greater understanding of energy consumption and help support energy efficiency initiatives. Perhaps a London energy supply company could eventually offer its own smart meter tariffs for residents?

Technology is also helping drive greater use of demand response to take advantage of the flexibility which many consumers have over when they use the energy they need. By ensuring that public buildings under his control fully embrace the potential of demand response and energy efficiency innovations, the new Mayor can make a significant contribution to his targets and to

By ensuring that public buildings under his control fully embrace the potential of demand response and energy efficiency innovations, the new Mayor can make a significant contribution to his targets and to security of supply for the UK as a whole.

Growing appetite for renewables

Khan has already signalled he wants to see a big increase in the deployment of renewables across the city as part of a pledge for London to be run entirely on clean energy by 2050.

Plans for a much wider rollout of solar panels across public buildings such as train stations are welcome as is the greater role he sees for community renewables projects which enable people to become much more engaged in energy issues.

This push for a major expansion of renewable generation ties in well with the rapid growth in demand we are seeing from businesses and organisations looking to buy renewable power. Many of the world’s leading brands – including a significant number headquartered in London – have already pledged to go 100% renewable to play their part in reducing emissions and to meet customer and investor expectations on sustainability.

With this growing appetite for renewable power, advances in technology and the clear political will to achieve change, the potential for London to develop into a city the world follows on energy is exciting.

CEO Robert Groves speak about sustainable cities: