Bright future for Aussie solar, NZ must say no to new gas

Solar had a record year in Australia in 2017. Graphic: Clean Energy Regulator

We're all about saving you energy and have rounded up the latest solar, climate and energy news so you don't have to.

Solar and batteries

The future of Australia’s solar industry is looking bright after a record 3.5 million panels were installed on rooftops last year, giving the equivalent output of a medium-sized coal-fired power station, reports the Guardian.

Rooftops of small to medium businesses are going to help boost India's solar expansion, reports Bloomberg.

The Netherlands generated 10% more electricity from renewable sources last year thanks to more solar and wind. And, in February, Belgium recorded the maximum amount of electricity produced by solar PV, in a single day, at an impressive 21% of the total the country’s total consumption.

Scientists are developing an artificial photosynthesis process than can store solar energy in a way that can be used later on.

Renewables and fossil fuels

NZ must avoid the temptation to explore and develop new gas resources even if they appear to deliver short-term economic benefits. The use of gas cannot deliver the deep cuts in emissions that will be required to stay below two degrees, writes Professor Ralph Sims in The Conversation. A group of leading New Zealanders, including scientists, health professionals and unionists, have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urging her to end oil and gas exploration in NZ.

The NZ Government needs to step up support for innovation if it wants to hit the 100% renewable energy target, says Australian renewable energy advocate Simon Corbell. And Rod Oram writes for Newsroom about the Productivity Commission's looming draft report on how to move to a low emissions economy, particularly now it has more ambitious terms of reference under the new Government.

The US will dominate global oil markets for years to come, satisfying 80 percent of global demand growth to 2020 as the shale boom keeps OPEC under pressure, says the International Energy Agency. That’s going to have an impact on oil exploration in NZ, reports RNZ.

Climate change

Even the scientists who watch the effects of climate change closely are worried as the Arctic has its warmest winter on record. And a new study shows climate change has shifted the start of the Arctic spring which is now arriving 16 days earlier than it did a decade ago. And

New Zealand has just had its hottest summer on record. The average temperature was 2.1°C above the 1981-2010 average, says Niwa. Climate scientists expect to find some "pretty pathetic" glaciers when they make this year's aerial survey of the South Island's ice-starved, post-summer snowline, reports the NZ Herald.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton criticises the nation's lack of action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a report on the planned new climate commission and zero carbon act. He also makes a range of recommendations about how the Government should proceed. 

Last year, there was the temperature spiral. This year, it’s the temperature circle that’s making the trend of global warming crystal clear.

Climate change is going to remap our world, changing not just how we live but where we live, reports Rolling Stone. And, in NZ, coastal communities affected by rising sea levels are starting to grapple with the issues of relocating, reports Stuff.

Left unchecked, agriculture is projected to produce more than half of all global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, says a new report from Greenpeace International.

Substantial health gains can be achieved from taking action to prevent climate change, says a new study published in The Lancet.

Electric vehicles

China's auto industry is rapidly turning all-electric. Last year China produced 680,000 all-electric cars, buses and trucks more than the rest of the world combined, reports Forbes.

Tesla may be beaten at its own game over the next couple of years as rival automakers start releasing electric cars, reports the NZ Herald.

By 2030 more than 95% of kilometres travelled in cars in Australia could be in electric vehicles, says a new report from EnergyLab. Meanwhile, there are a few potential speed bumps on the road to switching NZ's fleet to electric vehicle, writes Vector's Steve Heinen in The Spinoff.

And NZ's first fully battery-powered electric bus hit the road in Auckland, servicing AUT's Northcote and Manukau campuses.