Our campaigning has won a commitment to a London public energy company from Sadiq Khan. Here, we give 3 things Sadiq must commit to for Energy for Londoners to realise its true potential.
On Wednesday 22nd June, new London Mayor Sadiq Khan re-stated his commitment to Energy for Londoners – a new public energy company for the capital – and confirmed that his team were taking the idea forward ‘in the most rigorous way possible’. The announcement came in response to Green London Assembly Member Caroline Russell’s questions at the Mayor’s Question Time.
This is very welcome news, which comes on the back of months of hard campaigning in the lead-up to the Mayoral elections by Switched On London. Since December last year, we have been building the case for a London public energy company that cuts fuel bills and cuts polluting emissions. A company run by and for Londoners, controlled democratically, oriented around people not profit.
In just six months, our campaign has pushed this proposal onto the new mayor’s agenda, while at the same time building the foundations of a broad movement for energy democracy in the capital: a movement that brings together everyone from council tenants to community energy projects; from trade unionists to international environmental organisations.
This, then, is a step forward for people power. But the fight is far from over. Here’s three things that Sadiq must commit to, if Energy for Londoners (EfL) is to realise its exciting potential.
- An energy supply company that sells clean, affordable power to households
EfL must take a lead in pushing ahead investment and support for new clean energy projects. This means a new solar strategy, support for the capital’s fledgling community energy sector and direct investment in new sources of renewable power. EfL can help London follow the lead of other major European cities in shifting to 100% clean energy.
Equally important is that EfL has the power to sell energy to households. For too long, Londoners have been held to ransom by rip-off energy firms making a killing from cold homes and fuel poverty. EfL has a responsibility to take ambitious action on both the climate and the cold homes crisis by providing a clean and affordable alternative to distrusted utility giants. Robin Hood Energy – Nottingham’s new public energy company – is knocking hundreds of pounds off many customers bills, with tariffs on average £78 cheaper. Energy for Londoners should follow suit.
- A fully public company, with no private partners
If EfL is to be the a not-for-profit energy company that Sadiq has promised, then partnerships with the private sector must be categorically ruled out.
It was heartening to hear Sadiq reveal, at the Mayor’s Question Time, that plans for EfL are being developed alongside other innovative public energy initiatives like Robin Hood Energy, Bristol Energy and Scotland’s Our Power. These are excellent examples of public leadership, which London has a lot to learn from.
Like these companies, EfL must be a fully licensed supply company, without third party partners. Alliances with the private sector – even smaller companies like Ovo, who are attempting to cash in on city energy schemes – will leave elected officials and London communities without full control of vital matters like pricing. Only public sources of finance should be utilised – with strong options including the reinvestment of fossil fuel pension funds and municipal bonds. And any revenues generated from EfL should be reinvested into energy efficiency schemes to keep homes warm, rather than lining the pockets of wealthy business executives.
- A company run by Londoners, for Londoners
Finally, an energy company that is truly for Londoners must be an energy company that gives all of us a meaningful say. The appetite for community energy schemes in the capital demonstrate that ordinary people want to take an active role in governing the power sector, and the success of these schemes (government cuts notwithstanding) shows that we are perfectly well equipped to do so.
Drawing on best practice examples of democratic public ownership across the world, Switched On London have put together a plan for how EfL could transfer power and control to energy users and workers: from advisory neighbourhood assemblies to elected board members and the chance to influence the company through public petitions. For more on this, see our report, written with the New Economics Foundation.
In short, Energy for Londoners sounds good. But what we really need is Energy run by and for Londoners!
Photo credit Martin Lesanto-Smith