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28 October 2014
Inside Out

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Offices at night

Lighting up London - offices at night.

City lights

A recent report by the government's chief economist warned of economic disaster as a result of climate change. But we found that many offices in London's Square Mile are not switched on to the energy problem.

BBC London's Max Rushden swapped his 94.9 breakfast radio show for a Sunday night trip to Canary Wharf.

"It's just gone midnight and Canary Wharf is lit up like a Christmas tree, and these lights have been on all weekend," says Max.

"It does look really cool, but if we're serious about the environment, why are these lights on?"

Switching off?

Environmental campaigner Trewin Restorick, Director of Global Action Plan, is concerned about this waste of energy:

"Well, if there's no one in the offices, it's a huge problem, because all these lights need energy to power them - the energy comes from gas, power stations and coal.

"Creating the energy puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that's causing global warming.

Person with binoculars

Testing for bright night lights.

"We worked out in the square mile that they were wasting £17 million a year on their energy, that's 200,000 tonnes of C02".

£17 million pounds is the same amount of electricity needed to power 105,000 homes for a year.

The three of the most common reasons companies give to keep burning the midnight oil are for the cleaners, security and leaving lights on because companies are using renewable energy.

Energy wasters

Inside Out London decided to see for ourselves who the biggest energy wasters are with our very own light audit at Canary Wharf.

We surveyed twenty eight thousand windows in our light audit.

Although this isn't an exact science, we used binoculars which are pretty accurate.

Our number crunchers estimated how much electricity is being wasted in a year, taking into account the long hours city types work.

At number three, was the headquarters of HSBC, a bank that's really proud of it's green credentials.

Canary Wharf Tower

Canary Wharf Tower - blazing lights.

But it is wasting 2.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year - that's enough to power 600 UK households for 12 months.

In at number two it's 25 Bank Street, home to a major US investment bank and two other large companies.

The lights on there are wasting 3.3 million kilowatt hours, that's enough to power 700 homes for a year.

And in the top slot of energy wasting bad boys it's the Canary Wharf Tower, home to over 30 companies.

Not all of them leave their lights on, but the one's that do are wasting 4.7 million kilowatt hours each year.

That's enough to power over 1,000 households for 12 months.

That means the Tower is emitting the same amount of C02 as 4,094 transatlantic flights.

Lighthouse or business park?

Canary Wharf Group manage the Canary Wharf estate.

They also occupy three floors in our number one waster - The Canary Wharf Tower.

We asked them whether they were running a lighthouse or a business park.

They told us they have a very comprehensive environmental policy and aim to improve their own performance wherever possible:

"Like any other landlord, Canary Wharf Group cannot dictate its tenants' electricity usage.

"At Canary Wharf, where 100% of the energy comes from renewable resources, some tenants have staff working round the clock, seven days a week which requires higher than usual energy consumption".

Incredibly, even though it was a Sunday night on our visit, across the whole of Canary Wharf a quarter of the empty offices still had their lights on.

If they're doing that every night of the year, that's a total waste of a colossal 22 million kilowatt hours of electricity, that's £1 million worth.

There's no reason for companies to keep their lights on, not for the cleaners, not for the security guards, not carbon offsetting, especially when it's as easy as just flicking a switch.

This week's featured location

Tower Bridge has stood over the River Thames in London since 1894 and is one of the finest, most recognisable bridges in the World.

Tower Bridge was completed in 1894, after eight years of construction.

Tower Bridge c/o PA Images

Tower Bridge

Originally, London Bridge was the only crossing over the Thames.

As London grew, so more bridges were added, but these were all to the west of London Bridge, since the area east of London Bridge had become a busy port.

In the 19th Century, the east end of London became so densely populated that public pressure mounted for a bridge to the east of London Bridge, as journeys for pedestrians and vehicles were being delayed literally by hours.

Finally in 1876, the City of London Corporation, who were responsible for that part of the Thames, decided that the problem could be put off no longer.

At the Tower Bridge Exhibition you can enjoy breath-taking views from the high-level Walkways, and learn about how and why the Bridge was built.

Also featured...

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Making a difference overseas.

According to Gordon Brown, just two pence per person is enough to educate the developing world.

A group of students from London decided to put this to the test.

To keep up to date with the progress of the Educate for Life project visit the website…


If it wasn't for charitable organisations and a handful of dedicated teachers, school cricket would have fallen off the agenda completely in many London Boroughs.

We speak to Mike Gatting, a figurehead in the Chance to Shine initiative that aims to restore cricket in state schools.

And we get the views of the London Community Cricket Association which is having success with Tapeball Cricket, invented in Pakistan.

last updated: 31/10/07

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