Zero emission rail services

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th July 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Russell Caroline Russell Green

Is Transport for London (TfL) on track for rail services under its control to be zero emission by 2030?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Although there are no zero-emission targets for National Rail, my Environment and Transport Strategy set the ambition that all rail services controlled by TfL should be zero‑carbon by 2030. This is part of my wider actions to reduce London’s carbon emissions in response to the climate emergency. I have published one of the world’s first climate action plans to be compatible with the Paris Agreement on climate. These measures will help us meet my targets for a zero-emission transport network and a zero-carbon city by 2050.

TfL’s action to cut emissions from rail include removing diesel trains from the Gospel Oak to Barking London Overground Line with the full route being serviced by new state-of-the-art electric trains by late summer [2019]. When the Elizabeth line is fully operational, all TfL rail services, including Tube, tram and light rail, will be electrified. TfL is also making the Tube and rail services as energy efficient as possible while delivering the increases in service frequency that London needs. New Piccadilly line trains are to be introduced from 2024. They will be energy efficient through a lighter weight articulated design and trains will also include full regenerative braking capability to recover traction energy and efficient traction motors.

Reaching zero-carbon rail by 2030 depends on securing zero-carbon electricity. TfL has undertaken detailed feasibility work to establish the scale of renewable energy generation it can potentially install across its network and it is currently working to install 1.1 megawatts of solar across its estate. TfL is exploring opportunities to connect the rail network directly to renewable energy sources in London and the southeast and has had positive discussions with potential suppliers earlier this year [2019].

However, even allowing for these opportunities, the majority of electricity supply to Tube and rail will come from the grid. The grid is forecast to decarbonise by over 55% by 2030, but to reach my zero-carbon railway ambition TfL will have to change the way it procures grid electricity, including potentially towards longer-term power purchase agreements with a renewable generator and others. TfL is developing a procurement strategy for achieving this, which will be finalised in spring 2020.

Caroline Russell AM: Great, thank you. Very importantly, you raised the point about the source of all this electricity.

Photo of Caroline Russell Caroline Russell Green

In my response to both your draft Environment and Transport Strategies, I highlighted the opportunity of using TfL’s enormous procurement power - it is the biggest energy consumer in London - to decarbonise the energy grid. I am really pleased that City Hall switched to a 100% renewable energy provider and that your Transport Strategy, as you said, included an aim for all TfL rail services to be zero‑carbon by 2030.

However, according to your answer to my question in June 2019 on the GLA functional bodies and renewables, currently only 0.01% of the energy consumed by TfL last year was from renewable sources. This is a massive gap. Do you agree that this a failure that needs to be put right, and urgently, particularly as you have so much influence over these TfL contracts?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Can I say, Chair, that this is one question mark? I do not disagree with anything that has been asked in the question, except for the use of the word “failure”. I would say this is a good example for those watching of us putting aside party-political differences and working together. You have been really helpful in this area. You are right; we have to do much better.

Can I just explain what we are doing now? What we are doing now is using a standard grid mix of renewable, nuclear and fossil fuel derived energy, but you are right that we are the biggest consumer in London. We have huge purchasing and so what I have said to TfL - and it is going to do this - is to bring forward a plan by spring 2020. What should excite you, I hope, is the opportunity for power purchase agreements and to be a leader here. Hopefully we can continue to work together to make swifter progress.

Photo of Caroline Russell Caroline Russell Green

Certainly, I was looking at your TfL Energy Strategy update from 10 July [2019], which was talking about these power purchase agreements. It also referred to a number of solar and onshore wind projects that have planning permission but need contracts to be built. Will you use TfL’s purchasing power to enter those power purchase agreements to get some of these shovel-ready renewable projects off the ground?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I cannot commit before the Strategy is done, but that is the idea. The idea is doing things swifter rather than later because we do not want to wait until the mid-2020s or late 2020s. If there are things ready to go, we would like to go. There are some downsides with long-term power purchase agreements and so we would have to have a diversity of supply, but the spirit behind your question is certainly accepted by me. We want to make sure we move TfL to a place where it is value for money as well as being a leader in this at a time of climate emergency.

Photo of Caroline Russell Caroline Russell Green

The risk is that you miss this massive opportunity to support renewable energy projects and make a bold shift in TfL’s climate performance.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

That is a fair point. That is very fair.

Photo of Caroline Russell Caroline Russell Green

Given that just 0.01% of TfL’s energy is coming from renewables at the moment, what percentage are you going to be calling for when the energy contracts are renewed, which I believe is in 2022?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

First, can I explain? The premise to your question assumes that it is not fluctuating, so just to finish what I was saying, currently the standard grid mix, as I said, is renewable, nuclear and fossil fuel, but the proportions change on a second by second basis, dependent on weather conditions. We have looked at other options to speed things up from the Green Tariff because of the Government changes and less value for money, also renewable energy guarantees of origin. There are some downsides to doing that in relation to it does not bring new flows in. Power purchase agreements are the obvious thing to look into and so we are exploring what we can in relation to that.

Secondly, we are trying to reduce energy consumption. It is really important that we do so, but it is important, as you said, that we increase renewable generation. We want to play our role in doing so.

Photo of Caroline Russell Caroline Russell Green

I am out of time, but if you could write to me with some interim targets, that would be brilliant.