Mike Tuffrey explains how green electricity should power London’s tube:
London’s biggest consumer of electricity is beneath our feet.
In fact, London Underground is one of the top ten customers for electricity in the whole of the UK – using over one terawatt hour of electricity a year, enough to power over 250,000 homes.
You would have thought that such purchasing power would make it the obvious place to push the commissioning of new renewable electricity generation. But both current and previous mayors have dismally failed to show the ambition and determination needed.
Today, despite government and Mayoral pledges to make London greener and reduce CO2 emissions, just 16% of London Underground’s electricity supply comes from renewable and low carbon sources via the National Grid.
Most of this energy is used to power trains – although a variety of other operations need power too, such as running the 1030 groundwater pumps which keep a remarkable 30 million litres of water out of the tunnels everyday. Upgrades to the tube system also mean that demand for power keeps increasing – as the rising heat levels in Victoria Line tunnels this week confirm.
This is hardly a new idea. I have been pressing the Mayor on how the tube is powered since at least 2004. London Underground’s Environment Strategy talked about “influencing the supply chain…to improve the carbon profile of our power demands” back in 2008, and they were meant to be working up detailed plans in 2010
What we need to see is a step change to the use of renewables to power the tube. The Mayor’s current aspiration is for London Underground to source 30% of its energy supply from renewables by 2025. I think that’s derisory and we should go as far and as fast towards 100% as security of supply allows.
Can it be done?
The new London Array, out at sea off the coasts of Kent and Essex, will have a total capacity three times the amount the Underground needs. It’s coming on stream next year, six years after initial planning consent was granted. It shows what can be done.
London Underground themselves admit they have “strong market leverage due to the large, secure and long-term nature of demand as well as a very strong credit position, both of which are highly valued by low carbon energy generators and their financiers”.
I say let’s use that powerful position. All the scenarios show energy prices will rise in the decades ahead. It’s time to make a big move now, to secure, cost-effective, low carbon energy for London’s future.