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London Assembly Environment Committee Respond To Mayor’s Air Quality Consultation

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London 3 by pedro szekely via flickr

Through Transport for London, the Mayor is undertaking a formal consultation on the Emissions Surcharge (ES, also known as the ‘T-charge’), to be introduced into the central zone from October 2017.

The same consultation is also less formally seeking views on further measures being prepared for later dates, especially the strengthening and expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

The Environment Committee is submitting this response on behalf of the London Assembly.


The response is agreed by a majority of the Committee. Dissenting views, from the Conservative and UKIP Members, are noted in the appendix. The Green Member, while supporting the content of this response, has an additional point contained in the Green Group’s response to this consultation and referred to in a note to the ULEZ section below.

The Emissions Surcharge (ES)

Under the ES, it is proposed that older vehicles would pay, in the same zone and during the same hours as the Congestion Charge, a £10 daily charge (in addition to the Congestion Charge of £11.50). Some vehicles will be exempt from the charge, including vehicles meeting the Euro 4 emissions standard or better, taxis and minicabs, and motorcycles. Disabled drivers will not need to pay the charge and there will be a 90 per cent discount for residents, as with the C-Charge.

A significant purpose of the ES will be to signal the intent behind the subsequent ULEZ, and send a message to individuals and organisations who are planning to buy new vehicles to use in London. TfL expects the ES to reduce car-based NOX emissions in central London by just 4 per cent.

Response


The Committee supports the ES as proposed.

The Committee had suggested that there should be a stricter exemption standard for diesels (Euro 5) than for petrols (Euro 4 as proposed by the Mayor). This would have a stronger immediate effect on pollution, and would signal more clearly the principle of the forthcoming ULEZ, which is that diesels should be subject to the charge at younger ages than petrols, in line with the emissions from the vehicles.

However, following further discussions with the Deputy Mayor for Transport and officials from TfL and the GLA, the Committee sees the case that establishing this principle as early as 2017 would risk some less-aware motorists upgrading Euro 4 diesels to Euro 5 to gain ES exemption, only to require another upgrade when the Euro 5 diesels themselves become subject to the ULEZ in 2019, at significant total expense. It is true that Euro 5 diesels often do not offer lower real world NOX or NO2 emissions than older models. Therefore the Committee accepts the all-fuels Euro 4 exemption criterion for the ES as an interim measure.

The Committee had also recommended that the ES should end when it is superseded by the ULEZ, to avoid an over-complicated system of zonal charges. This is now part of the Mayor’s proposal and we welcome this. It has been clarified that for residents of the central zone the ES will continue (at the 90 per cent residents discount) during the ULEZ ‘sunset period’ (during which central zone residents will not pay the ULEZ); this seems consistent with our recommendation.

ULEZ proposals

In 2015, the previous Mayor ordered the ULEZ to take effect from September 2020 in the central congestion charge zone. It will impose a daily charge (£12.50 for light vehicles, £100 for heavy). Vehicles with low emissions of toxic pollution will be exempt – the standard being Euro 4 (from 2006) for petrol vehicles, and Euro 6 (from 2015-16 depending on vehicle type) for diesels. These two standards are approximately equivalent in terms of NOX emissions (though on-the-road compliance with the standard is an issue for many current diesel cars).

The Environment Committee at the time found that this scheme did not go far enough. It recommended that the scheme cover a wider area, be introduced sooner than 2020, and the charge to increase over time to have a stronger effect. The committee also underlined the importance of making vehicle-switching affordable for affected drivers, and supported the Mayor’s call for a national diesel scrappage scheme.

The current Mayor has been making proposals to take forward some of the Committee’s main recommendations, implementing the central charge earlier, and widening the zone to cover an extended inner zone for light vehicles and London-wide for heavy vehicles. The proposals in the current consultation include:

• Bringing forward the implementation of the ULEZ in central London to 2019. The consultation also covers options for leaving it at 2020 or delaying to 2021, 2022 or 2023.
• Applying the ULEZ to heavy vehicles London-wide, again at a range of possible dates from 2019 to 2023.
• Applying the ULEZ to light vehicles in a zone within the North and South Circular roads, at the same range of possible dates.

Response

As in previous consultation responses, we urge wide and early implementation of the ULEZ. Within the current consultation, this means supporting a 2019 date for the central zone rather than 2020, or the negative step of delaying the implementation already ordered. Specifically, we would continue to support an early 2019 date rather than a date later in the year. We welcome that the ULEZ is being addressed in the current consultation and would urge that the formal consultation on ULEZ changes be conducted soon enough to enable an early implementation date.

We fully support extension of the ULEZ London-wide for heavy vehicles, specifically from 2019.

For light vehicles, we support expansion to a zone within the North and South Circulars as a minimum and again at an early date, preferably 2019. We would support further consideration of wider boundary options, and the most preferable option would be for a London-wide ULEZ for all vehicles.

Additional alternatives for consultation could include placing the North and South Circular roads themselves in the zone, incentivising drivers to find a wider range of alternative options, rather than simply diverting onto these already-congested roads. The A406 North Circular as a purpose-built orbital road carries very heavy traffic even without the ULEZ, while the urban streets designated the A205 South Circular in many places have just a single lane in each direction and are not suitable to receive traffic diverted from trunk roads such as the A2 and A3.

There is demand from boroughs for areas outside the North and South Circulars to be included. Particular consideration should be given to south London where the South Circular cuts through inner London much more closely than the North Circular does. In the south, the proposed boundary bisects the inner boroughs of Wandsworth, Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich, whereas in the north it passes through Barnet, Enfield and Waltham Forest in outer London, going entirely around Haringey, Camden, Islington and Hackney.

If an inner zone with a diversionary road boundary is chosen, sections of the A232 are more equivalent to the A406 North Circular than is the A205. This distinction is the minimum that is required to bring symmetry between north and south London, although our preference is to have the ULEZ and the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) at the same London-wide boundary.

Extending the ULEZ to all of London for light vehicles as well as heavy would simplify the zonal structure, largely remove the discrepancies between north and south London, and offer the purpose-built orbital M25 motorway as a diversionary route. This option could be considered as a 2020 phase, to allow car and van drivers in outer London time to acquire compliant vehicles or take other alternative options.

We also re-iterate the point made in our previous consultation response that any 2020 phase of the ULEZ should be implemented at the beginning of the year (before the Mayoral election in May), rather than in September.

Looking beyond 2020, and considering the recent announcements of future diesel bans from Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens, the potential to remove Euro 6 diesels from exemption should be considered, if forthcoming real-world driving emission standards do not reduce emissions effectively. Earlier dis-exemption of diesels could be considered in the central zone. Consideration should also be given to progressive tightening of exemption standards towards zero tailpipe emissions; a statement of intent for a zero emissions standard in 2025 would give an appropriate signal to drivers, operators and the vehicle industry.

Other measures

We continue to support the Mayor’s calls for the national government to take tougher action on air pollution, including a nationally-funded diesel scrappage scheme. This would both reduce the costs of the ES and ULEZ to drivers, and enhance their air quality impact, by facilitating switching to cleaner vehicles.

We also support the devolution of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED or ‘road tax’) to London, enabling the Mayor to set rates that take into account air pollutants as well as CO2 emissions, and to retain revenue raised in London for London use rather than seeing it reserved to the national strategic road network, almost all in other parts of the country. We will write to the Government to support these calls.

As the Committee has also previously stated, running through your transport emissions work should be a priority on traffic reduction, with complementary measures to enable modal shift to buses, trains, walking and cycling. The experience of reducing car journeys between 1991 and 2011, and during the 2012 London Olympics, show how Londoners can adapt their travel behaviours. Less traffic on the roads can reduce congestion, improve journey times and reliability including for buses, and further encourage sustainable travel choices.

We have likewise drawn attention to other air pollution issues, including emissions from private hire vehicles, river transport and non-transport sources.

Energy

Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?

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The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.


Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.


The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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Energy

4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy

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Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?


A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.


“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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