Summer’s here (we hope!) and while many of us will be pleased to see a bit of sun again during our lunch breaks, others in the capital are welcoming the sunshine for a different reason.
It’s currently estimated that up to 20 per cent of London’s electricity could be supplied by solar power. Generating solar energy at home helps lower energy bills and cuts your carbon footprint at the same time. Plus you can sell any excess energy you generate, helping you to pay off the installation costs in a matter of years. It seems like a no-brainer.
With this in mind, you would expect to see a large proportion of homes in London with solar panels on their roofs, soaking up the elusive summer sun.
However, this is unfortunately not the case.
According to figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, solar panels are installed on less than 0.5 per cent of homes in London. One way this figure can be improved is through community schemes like the one the London Assembly Environment Committee recently visited.
We were shown around the Roupell Park Estate in Brixton by Agamemnon Otero, Founding Member & Director at Repowering London, and his team.
Working with the local community, Agamemnon and his team have set up something quite unique in their Brixton Energy project, which helps to tackle fuel poverty by generating low-cost electricity for residents. This has a double benefit because it also provides training and employment for young, local men and women – who installed the solar panels used on the estate.
For those involved in Brixton Energy, the sunshine brings together the fruits of their labour – for the small team of enthusiastic staff who work admirably long hours (often unpaid), for the dedicated volunteers who support them, for the ambitious young people who installed and maintain the solar panels and for the local residents, who were open-minded enough to get on board with the project and who now benefit from reduced energy costs.
During our visit I was pleased to hear that the pilot project at the Roupell Park Estate – already one of several Repowering London initiatives – has been replicated again on a much larger scale, this time in Hackney, where it’s just getting off the ground.
It seems then that a very worthwhile solar energy project in London has been recognised as a success and now others are finally catching on.
However, we learnt that it was mainly through the sheer hard work and dedication of those involved that the Brixton Energy project ever went ahead.
As you can imagine, a scheme at this scale requires some start-up investment. At Brixton Energy, the team worked hard to secure funding from the various grants available from Lambeth Council. They also put the hours in to secure private investment, including investment from residents. This generates an annual return for investors – as surplus energy is sold back to the National Grid – and 20 per cent is ploughed back into a Community Energy Efficiency Fund to help tackle fuel poverty on the estate.
So, what’s stopping the rest of us? Why, despite the capital being one of the most affluent – and sunny – places in the UK, do we have the lowest amount of installed solar power capacity in our homes? What more can the Mayor, the Greater London Authority and the government do to encourage more Londoners to install solar panels on their homes or at least become ‘solar savvy’?
Through our investigation the Committee aims to answer these questions, and make recommendations to help drive up domestic solar generation in London.
We’d love to know what you think. Get involved by completing our short online survey on the topic to have your voice heard.
Darren Johnson AM is Chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee, stay up to date with the Assembly’s work via @londonassembly.