Lewisham is way ahead of other London boroughs in generating renewable energy, new figures show. And, overall, south of the river is outdoing the north. But London is the worst city for exploiting its renewable potential, compared to the rest of England and Wales.
In an analysis by think tank Green Alliance that compares north and south of the river’s renewable energy capacity to their electricity consumption, south London trumps the north. Renewable power sources in the south generate the equivalent of 2.9% of the area’s electricity consumption, far more than in the north, where it is 1.7%.
As an urban area with little space for wind turbines, London’s renewable mix is dominated by solar panels and power from biomass and waste. North London is also benefiting from landfill gas sources.
Why is Lewisham doing so well? Lewisham’s renewables are generating the equivalent of 30% of its electricity consumption. Most of this is coming from biomass and waste sources, but supplemented by solar panels, showing that an area’s electricity needs can be met by a diversity of renewable sources. The other boroughs in the top ten are, from second to tenth place: Newham, Havering, Bexley, Hounslow, Sutton, Enfield, Barking and Dagenham, Kingston upon Thames, and Waltham Forest.
This league table is produced as part of Greener London week, in which a coalition of the UK’s leading environmental groups, including the National Trust, WWF, RSPB and Greenpeace, are calling for the next mayor to commit to a greener London during their term. Among the ideas, which cover issues around waste, green space and air pollution, as well as energy, the groups are urging the mayor to ramp up renewables and make the capital a world leading solar city with a tenfold increase in solar capacity – equal to around 200,000 solar rooftops, up from nearly 16,000 today.
Compared with other cities in the UK, London is bottom of the renewable energy league, coming way behind northern cities like Grimsby, Warrington and Doncaster. And comparing the proportion of households with solar roofs in the 20 largest cities in England and Wales, the capital languishes at the bottom, with only 0.48%. Although London’s mix of flats and private rented housing makes it a difficult place for solar panels, there is it still room for considerable improvement.
Renewable energy is by far the most popular energy source with people in the UK according to official government statistics which show 78% of the public support the use of renewables, with only 4% against.
Lord Barker, chair of the London Sustainable Development Commission, said: “The terrific progress in certain London boroughs shows just what is possible when you combine the latest clean energy technology and the will to drive change. London, as Europe’s only mega-city, has a vital leadership role to play and the next mayor needs to build on these examples to transform the deployment of decentralised energy right across our city.”
Amy Mount, senior policy adviser at Green Alliance, said: “Currently London is missing a huge opportunity to be a world leading low carbon city by not doing more to exploit renewables. Our capital city could become the world’s biggest urban solar farm. The next mayor doesn’t need to wait for national government to sort its confused energy policy out – we can start delivering on London’s renewable potential right away.”
Agamemnon Otero, founder of Energy Garden, said: “By supporting communities to create self-sufficient Energy Gardens we will bring sound business sense and smart technology to gardening. Energy Gardens will allow all ages, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds to engage in greening our urban corridors, helping craft socially smart cities.”