London Solar Auctions Aim to Make City Greenest on Earth

By Jess Shankleman

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he wanted to try city-wide auctions as part of an environment strategy proposed to more than double the capital’s solar energy generation capacity by 2030.

The reverse auctions would be similar to the Solarize NYC model already used in New York, where multiple buyers pool together and panel sellers compete for one single contract, according to a draft solar action plan.

Plans for a new interactive map of the city to show potential hotspots for sun power as well as a change in planning guidance to favor photovoltaics on new developments. It also envisions a grant program for community solar and pilot programs to test how batteries can be delivered alongside photovoltaics. Those steps could help double London’s capacity for the technology to about 200 megawatts over the next 13 years, the mayor’s office said in the strategy document.

“I’ve set out my plans to improve London’s environment by fighting pollution, tackling waste and promoting cleaner energy so we can make London a healthier city that adapts to the impacts of climate change,” said Khan, according to the statement.

The mayor’s forecast “seems pretty trivial to achieve and may well happen anyway as a result of businesses and homeowners installing solar panels to save on electricity bills,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Similar reverse auctions in the Netherlands have however successfully brought down costs, she said.

Kahn also urged the national government to develop a solar strategy applying to the whole country, saying the step could help increase capacity to 2 gigawatts by 2050. A gigawatt is about as much as a new nuclear reactor produces.

The solar proposals were announced as part of an Environment Strategy Consultation, which includes a new 9 million-pound ($11.66 million) Greener City Fund to boost tree planting and green infrastructure. The mayor’s office said the changes could make London “one of the greenest cities on Earth.”

Khan said he wanted London to become the first “National Park City” in 2019, which would protect and increase the amount of green space in the capital. Those include using planning regulations to protect undeveloped land and encouraging the installation of so-called “green roofs” that are covered with plants.

The plan could help reduce London’s air pollution, which is some of the worst in Europe and causes almost 10,000 premature deaths a year, according to research by the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London.

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