April 2016: Think tank Policy Exchange has produced two reports over the past few months on London’s air quality crises (Up In the Air: How to solve London’s air quality crisis – Part 1 and Part 2). Though the bulk of the two studies are concerned with pollutants from the transport sector, the issue of emissions from London’s growing decentralised energy generation capacity also come under consideration.
Part 1 suggests that London’s support of decentralised energy systems, based around the GLA’s focus on the growth of gas fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant, may exacerbate London’s air quality problems:
- The models also do not fully reflect the ongoing growth in decentralised power generation across London, including Combined Heat and Power (CHP). Decentralised energy is being promoted both by national government and the GLA, and there is now 195MW of CHP capacity across London (ranging from small units in homes to large units in industrial premises). Projections show that gas combustion in buildings could be responsible for 48% of NOx emissions by 2025 in Central London.14 There is a risk that measures to promote decentralised energy could increase local NOx emissions. [p7]
Part 2 goes on to recommend the following:
- We have also identified a risk associated with the growth of “decentralised energy” in London. Decentralised energy is being promoted by the GLA and DECC as a means to reduce carbon emissions and ensure security of supply. However, certain forms of decentralised energy produce significant NOx emissions, for example small scale gas and diesel engines, biomass boilers and CHP (Combined Heat and Power) installations. We recommend that the next Mayor of London reconsiders London’s Climate Change and Energy Strategy to reconcile the potential conflict between decentralised energy and air pollution. We also recommend changes to national energy policies led by DECC in order to resolve potential conflicts with local air pollution. [p8]
Hence, it is interesting to note that the GLA have recently approved “expenditure of up to £30,000 to procure and appoint consultancy services to model the air quality implications of the first four [London Energy Plan] energy plan scenarios... This study will deliver:
• A report detailing findings and recommendations
• Spatial maps showing the concentration of air pollutants estimated from the emissions rates of the heating technologies considered in the LEP.
• The dispersion of the air pollutants concentrations within the local area from the sources for four scenarios considered within the LEP.”