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London's path towards zero carbon: The new Local Energy Accelerator initiative

  • Market Insight 11 December 2020 11 December 2020
  • UK & Europe

  • Energy & Natural Resources

Carbon-Neutral London

Following the commitments of the 2016 Paris Agreement, London pledged to be zero-carbon by 2050. In January of this year, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, publically vowed to make London carbon-neutral by 2030 if re-elected to office, going well beyond the UK’s national target. The Climate Change Act 2008 committed the UK to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions relative to the levels in 1990, to be achieved by 2050. In June 2019, secondary legislation was passed that extended that target to “at least 100%”. The Net Zero commitment was reiterated with the UK Government's announcement of its Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution on 18 November 2020.  London is a key part of the UK's Net Zero initiative.

Decentralised Energy

London's path towards zero carbon relies on a range of different approaches.

A key way to support decarbonisation of both electricity and gas grids in London is by increasing the proportion of renewable and local decentralised energy by introducing more local power and heating sources.

Local energy, also known as decentralised energy, is any heat or electricity that is generated and supplied in London. This includes solar panels, wind turbines and local heating networks supplied by plants which are close to where energy is used.

Generating energy locally increases efficiency and the Mayor has set a target to supply 15 per cent of London’s energy from renewable, local sources by 2030. At the moment, most of London’s electricity comes from the national electricity grid and most of London’s heat and hot water needs are supplied by the national gas grid with boilers in each building. Power in this grid is generated in large powers stations outside of London. The heat produced via electricity generation in power stations tends to be wasted entering the atmosphere and directly contributing to global warming.

The Local Energy Accelerator Framework

In June 2017, the Decentralised Energy Enabling Project (DEEP) was established to provide public sector intervention and support larger-scale decentralised energy projects in London that the market failed to develop and realise. It expires in June 2021 and will be replaced by the Local Energy Accelerator (LEA).

The LEA is one of a series of ‘accelerators’ designed to speed up the pace of cutting carbon and decarbonise energy supply by creating smaller and nimbler decentralised sources of energy in a bid to achieve net zero carbon by 2030. The objective is to develop clean and smart, integrated energy systems utilising local and renewable energy resources.

The LEA will provide grant funding to assist public and private organisations with the design and implementation of clean local energy schemes. This funding will help to de-risk projects and improve their viability by providing technical, commercial, legal and strategic expertise from service providers.   Clean energy schemes supported by the LEA will incorporate the use of local, clean and flexible renewable energy sources that will include the development of smart grid and micro grid networks.

The Micro Grid

Micro-grids have been described as “the holy grail” of renewable energy networks. Micro-grids provide a self-sufficient energy system that serve a discrete geographic area. For example, at its smallest scale, an apartment block might be fitted with solar panels which power the flats within. The Vauxhall Energy project at Vauxhall Gardens estate provides an example of this, where a solar installation financed by a community share offer powers the local community. Any excess energy is then sold back to the network. Local initiatives like this, that literally put power in the hands of the community, whilst reducing its carbon footprint, show how micro grids can transform the UK’s energy sector.

Community projects and the LEA initiative have the same objective - to decentralise energy in London and provide Londoners with a range of clean, local renewable energy sources. These are just some of the initiatives that London will need to embrace in the coming decade to achieve net-zero.  

Conclusion

The LEA initiative is a flagship scheme which if successful will not only help drive down carbon emissions and contribute towards Net Zero, but will also help empower local communities by enabling them to take ownership of their own low-carbon energy and heating resources.

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