Fossil Free Southwark campaign: Council commits to rolling out 100% renewable electricity for schools

Katherine Johnston (11 March, 2020)

'There are currently supply challenges with renewable gas, which is generally created at anaerobic digestion plants, so we are not yet in a position to adopt this fully'

35363Fossil Free Southwark campaigners outside Tooley Street

In a huge campaigning win for environmental campaigners, Southwark Council has committed to rolling out 100 per cent renewable electricity in all council-run schools.

At a divestment demonstration

Fossil Free Southwark, which campaigns for divesting from fossil fuel investments and lobbies for renewable energy sources, wrote an open letter to Southwark Council in advance of its energy contract being up for renewal this month.

Changing the five-year contract is one of the quickest wins for the council in its efforts to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Freedom of information (FOI) requests lodged by Fossil Free Southwark to 94 schools across Southwark found that only one of the 38 to respond was able to confirm how much of its energy supply was renewable.

Between January and December of 2019, Southwark Council spent almost £13.5 million purchasing energy through a public sector buying group – LASER – which is supplied by NPower.

According to NPower’s own data, its energy has a lower than average percentage of renewable energy at between 8.9-26.2 per cent compared with a national average of 32.8 per cent.

Many state schools’ energy is bought on their behalf by local authorities.  Hackney Borough Council will switch to completely renewable sources this year with the aim to start generating energy, too.

In an open letter to the council, sent on February 23, Fossil Free Southwark called on the borough to procure 100 per cent renewable electricity and a gas supply with more than ten per cent renewable content.

Councillor Richard Livingstone, the cabinet member responsible for coordinating the council’s climate emergency plans, said green electricity was already on its way and clean gas supply would hopefully follow suit.

“I’d like to thank Fossil Free Southwark for their letter and assure them that we share their goal of moving everyone to renewable energy, in the interest of meeting our goal to make Southwark carbon neutral by 2030,” he told the News on Monday.

“As part of our plan to tackle the climate emergency, can confirm that we are rolling out 100 per cent renewable electricity across all of our sites, and have extended this offer to all council schools. There are currently supply challenges with renewable gas, which is generally created at anaerobic digestion plants, so we are not yet in a position to adopt this fully.

“But we hope to adopt renewable gas in the future and are working towards this.”

Fossil Free Southwark is now calling on schools with independent energy contracts to take action and switch to greener suppliers.

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