London moves forward with plans to power TfL Tube with green energy

Posted: 21 July 2020 |

The Mayor of London has set out plans to change the way the Transport for London (TfL) Tube network is supplied with electricity, making it more cost effective and tackling the climate emergency.

London moves forward with plans to power TfL Tube with green energy

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has published Transport for London’s (TfL’s) renewable energy requirements, said to be the next steps towards a zero-carbon railway by 2030. By changing the way electricity is supplied, the Mayor and TfL are seeking to move towards a greater use of renewable energy as a key measure in helping tackle the climate emergency. The aim is that all electricity requirements for the Underground are met via zero carbon sources by 2030.

All passenger rail services operated by TfL are electrically powered and, as part of the London Environment Strategy, the Mayor has set TfL the goal of achieving a zero-carbon railway by 2030. TfL is currently one of the largest consumers of electricity in the UK, with a requirement for 1.6TWh per annum. TfL currently source electricity directly from the National Grid via the Crown Commercial Service. By developing plans to purchase power from renewable generators through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), TfL would enable the rail network to be supplied by energy sources including wind and solar power, rather than a mix of power generators that emit carbon into the atmosphere.

The market testing will explore all elements of these contracts so TfL can secure a good deal for London and will also look at the potential for meeting the GLA group’s wider demand for renewable electricity – a total of 143 GWh which includes Greater London Authority (GLA), London Fire Commissioner (LFC), Transport for London (TfL), Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Old Oak Common and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC).

With the current financial challenges facing TfL, the Mayor stated that he wants to ensure that the energy used to power its rail network is both cost effective in the long-term and taken from clean sources. The intention is to start with a TfL PPA with energy generators in a phased approach, with the ambition of considering purchasing up to 10 per cent of its demand by Spring 2022 subject to market testing and approval from TfL’s Finance Committee later this year. 

The Mayor will also look at opportunities to meet London’s wider public sector electricity demand with renewables, helping achieve zero carbon faster through collaboration with London’s local authorities’ offices, schools and leisure centres. In total, these organisations along with the GLA group currently consume around 3TWh of electricity every year – equivalent to the electricity consumed by over 820,000 homes which is 22 per cent of homes across London.

Khan said: “As one of the single biggest purchasers of energy in London, it is important that TfL leads the way on green energy. This is a vital step towards my ambitions for TfL – and London – to be zero-carbon by 2030. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact but as we recover we want to make sure that we build a better, greener and more equal city. This work to secure cost-effective and renewable energy for the rail network, with ambitions to include the wider GLA group and beyond, will play a key role in London’s green recovery and accelerating action on the climate emergency.”

Chief Safety, Health and Environment Officer at TfL, Lilli Matson, added: “TfL is already a world leader in many environmental initiatives and we are constantly striving to do more to lessen our carbon footprint and help tackle the climate emergency. As one of the largest electricity consumers in the UK, we have a duty to explore fully the contribution that renewable energy can make to running our services. This early market engagement will help us better understand generator preferences, their impact on price and their ability to de-carbonise our future power requirements.”

The introduction of renewable PPAs is one of a number of initiatives already underway at TfL to help reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality:

  • Waste heat from the London Underground network has been providing heating and hot water to more than 1,350 homes, a school and two leisure centres in Islington since earlier this year
  • TfL is promoting electric vehicles with more than 360 electric buses now in operation across London, and more than 3,500 Zero Emission Capable Black Taxis now licenced and in operation around the city.