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‘White-label whitewash’ as City Hall prepares to tender for energy supply company

Sadiq Khan is to issue a tender for the delivery of an energy supply company in London, suggesting concerns that the London mayor was preparing to row back on a manifesto pledge to create a publicly owned energy company were well-founded.

City Hall published the London Environment Strategy on Friday to kick off a public consultation on its plans for London. Within the 202-page document, it was revealed that a tender would be launched for the delivery of an energy supply company with existing suppliers invited to take part.

This flies in the face of Khan’s manifesto pledge in 2016 to establish an ‘Energy for Londoners’ not-for-profit company, providing a range of energy services including buying clean energy generated across the city to power London’s public buildings.

This had been planned to be extended to homeowners, however concerns that the plans were being watered down emerged in May when a report published by the London Assembly’s environment committee discussed a ‘white label plus’ model.

While this term is absent from the environment strategy, it does state: “In light of changing market conditions and uncertainty in national policy, the Mayor aims to start a scheme using an existing supplier”.

It goes on to say that this will allow for a faster implementation of the scheme to ensure that Londoners suffering from fuel poverty are helped quickly.

Speaking to Clean Energy News last week at City Hall, deputy mayor for the environment Shirley Rodrigues explained that the mayor and his team were focused on tackling the issue sooner rather than later.

“We know that one in ten households is in fuel poverty and one of the main aspects to help tackle that is through providing access to fairer tariffs and getting them off pre-payment meters.

“That's what we're focusing on and our view is we need to get delivery on the ground quickly for those people because bills are so high, so that's the focus. That tender is open to anybody to tell us if they can deliver these things and then we'll pick the best deal for Londoners,” she said.

However, the tender – due to be launched in the Autumn – has been branded a “white-label whitewash” by campaigners who say the plans fall short of Khan’s election promise.

Laura Hill of campaign group Switched on London said: “For all the bold words, Sadiq is dithering on the single boldest step he could take in the fight against fuel poverty, missing his best opportunity to cut bills for hard-up London households.

“London doesn’t need yet another branding exercise, we need our own public company, controlled democratically by and for Londoners. Sadiq says London can lead on climate – this announcement shows there is no intent to be a clean energy leader – or even a peer – with other European cities.”

“Unless Sadiq comes up with a concrete plan for how his ‘white-label whitewash’ can transition to a fully licensed not-for-profit company as soon as possible, Londoners will consider Sadiq to have broken a key election pledge.”

The London Environment strategy states the option to move to a fully licensed supply company will be kept under review, but fails to offer an explanation of how this will be carried out.

Its progress will depend on Licence Lite, which is intended to act as a supplier to purchase locally generated low carbon electricity at a higher price than they would otherwise receive from the wholesale market and sell to GLA group facilities.

Rodrigues said City Hall was still committed to the scheme but could not give a concrete date as to when this would be established, while the consultation states: “Licence Lite aims to be operational by autumn 2017.”