The Solar Action Plan is a Manifesto commitment of Mayor Sadiq Khan which aims to make London a zero carbon city by 2050. It outlines how heat and power in London can be generated from solar energy and will be consulted on over the next three months. While the targets are welcome, if modest, the STA remains focussed on practical measures that will help to boost London’s solar markets and which will enable Londoners to make the most of the Feed-In Tariff (FITs) scheme, which has less than two years left to run.
“Solar is vital to any green and modern capital city” said Leonie Greene, Head of External Affairs. “London is now starting the focussed work it urgently needs to do to catch up on solar, not only with the rest of the UK but with other world cities. However, the Mayor is quite right that national Government needs to provide a better enabling policy framework to support his ambitions – particularly on the tax treatment of rooftop solar. The GLA has strong powers to boost solar in new buildings so while the Solar Action Plan references building standards we are keen to see better policies for solar in the new draft London Plan published later this year. There is scope to deliver far more solar onsite in new developments across London - developers should not be able to buy their way out of taking every due opportunity. Our members have already demonstrated that solar works on everything from bridges to sky-scrapers, where it actively enhances the dynamism and the beauty of our capital city.”
The STA shares the Mayor’s concern about the wider national policy framework for solar that has unhelpfully seen business rates for organisations consuming their own rooftop solar increase by up to 800 percent and slow progress on reforming the FITs for larger rooftops.
Syed Ahmed, Director of think tank Energy for London, Board Member of the STA and author of ‘London Can’t Wait for Solar’ added that London has recently passed the 100MW level of solar installed and that while this is to be welcomed, it still only represents two percent of total PV capacity operational across the UK. London can do so much more in that solar PV, when working alongside new technologies such as electric vehicles (EVs), storage and local power supply options, will be a key enabler to achieve the Mayor’s goal to make London a zero carbon city by 2050. Mr Ahmed also said that with the national government decision to scrap the Urban Community Energy Fund (UCEF), it is particularly welcome that the Mayor has proposed to launch a new London grants scheme to help community energy groups get solar projects off the ground.
STA members have delivered solar schemes across London including the Blackfriars Solar Bridge, the Walkie Talkie and at Kings Cross. However, despite some striking solar schemes and London’s prominence as a world city London has been the poorest performing region in the UK on all solar indicators.
The GLA will also provide online advice to Londoners on going solar as there are around a million owner-occupied homes that could be readily encouraged to invest in rooftop solar. Despite reductions in the FIT, solar continues to present a good investment for home owners. It is increasingly being adopted alongside storage, where the STA last week won 5 percent VAT for storage when it is installed alongside a new solar system.