Shaun McCarthy, chairman of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012,
told attendees at a Central London Energy Management Group meeting that the London Olympics could not compete against the innovative and large scale use of renewables at this year’s Beijing Games.
The Commission was set up to review the sustainability of the London Olympics and Mr McCarthy visited Beijing to explore its approach.
He said he hoped renewables would be highly visible at London’s Olympic venues, but their use could only be supported if there was a clear economic case, one which also covered the “embedded” energy cost of manufacture.
He said: “The economic model was very different in China. “They wanted to show the world what they could do and cost was not an issue.
“We need to move the carbon debate forward from demonstration projects which look great to serious technical solutions which can make a difference.
“We also need to communicate that message.
“If we are not going to use photovoltaics or wind turbines we need to make sure people understand what we are actually doing in terms of sustainability.
“It has to have an economic case and carbon case in the longer term. I don’t think embedded energy costs were thought about at all in China.”
At the heart of London’s Olympic plans is a combined cooling, heat and power scheme linking the Olympic village and part of Stratford to a community energy network. The CLEMG meeting raised a series of issues over barriers to adopting CHP in other parts of London.
Paul Kennedy, energy manager at the City of London Corporation, said: “In this country we don’t have a track record with district heating. There have been examples where housing estates have opted not to take CHP although it has been sold to them as cheaper and more efficient.
“That is because they are unsure or uncertain and understand their boiler on the wall. It needs cultural change; we can do the technology but have to sell it in the right way.”
Dave Fairbrother, head of environmental services at Land Securities, said more guidance was needed from local government, especially concerning the higher associated costs.
He said: “As a developer we are happy to put in these systems to future-proof, but we do need a fair amount of urgency and a bit more certainty on when it needs to be provided, where it needs to be provided, what capacity is needed and what form it needs be in.”
Mr McCarthy said: “If you can make new residents of the Olympic Park area comfortable with CHP and tell people about that, then it will solve some of the problems raised by people here today – especially if you can demonstrate you will be able to get higher rents and property values going forward for these kind of developments.
“There is an educational message that can be delivered by the Olympics and I hope we can get that message across to people.”