October 2016: Really interesting interview by BusinessGreen with TfL Board Member Michael Liebreich. Michael, who is the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and an industry expert on clean energy, has recently been reappointed to the Board by new Mayor Sadiq Khan. In addition to Michael’s expertise, in a further positive move, Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association has been newly appointed to the Board. In his interview Michael highlights some of the challenges he has experienced as a Board member:
“…Liebreich does admit engagement with environmental issues has not always been as prevalent as he would have hoped. “The board as a whole, I’ll be honest, has never had a conversation about climate change,” he reveals. “And to the extent we’ve had conversations about carbon at the board or finance committee or even safety and sustainability panel it has only been because I’ve initiated them. During the four years I’ve been on the board we’ve never had a briefing on climate change at the board level. We’ve never brought an expert in and said ‘where are we going to be in 50 years on sea level or rainfall or whatever it is. What is going to happen here and what do we need to know to future proof the assets’?”
“Thankfully, he is confident the board’s approach to climate issues is about to change. Khan and Deputy Mayor for Transport Val Shawcross will set the agenda for the new board, but Liebreich has no doubts action on climate change and air pollution will be more central. “I started to push for a briefing on climate change and was told we are going to have a new board so wait until we have a new board,” he says. “I am delighted there will be more focus on these issues.”
A report Energy for London prepared earlier this year for former London Assembly Green Party member Jenny Jones, highlighted the incredibly slow progress TfL has made in securing cleaner power supplies for London Underground (see report here – in particular page 15 onwards). Similar points made in the report are echoed by Michael in his interview:
“As such a large and predictable energy consumer, TfL would be well placed to take advantage of highly competitive long term contracts with clean energy suppliers, Liebreich predicts. “We could enter into a 40 year PPA [Power Purchase Agreement],” he says. “We are going to be running trains on electricity for ever. We are a fantastic potential purchaser of renewable energy for a long period. If you went back a few years we would be a great purchaser but it would still be more expensive than the generic mix of electricity, [but now] could we enter a very long term contract which would be cheaper? You could imagine a scenario where the first onshore wind farm built without subsidy in the UK is built as a deal between some farmer who has a chunk of land and TfL which wants to lock in a deal that is cheaper than what we are paying currently for electricity. Do I know that can be done, no? But it is something we should be exploring.”
However, the Licence Lite project, led by the GLA, now appears the main action to try to source low carbon electricity for the tube – with the Mayor anticipating an announcement that the licence was to be granted in September (see para 2 of following GLA press release).