Cleantech enters, oil companies exit

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

Our groundbreaking solarZero+ energy service is in the running for a major award. This week solarcity was announced as one of the finalists in the Renewables Innovation category of the 2016 NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards. The winners will be announced in November. 

We’ve appointed Gareth Williams as Head of Energy Services. He will oversee solarcity’s energy services team and will lead the delivery of grid services to the nation’s utilities, local councils and developers.

MBIE released a report that explores future levels of electricity demand and how it could be met out to 2050 under five different scenarios. It says the combination of solar, batteries and electric vehicles will support a stable grid as we increase our use of renewable electricity over the next 25 years. Wellington’s first solar-powered electric vehicle charging station will open next month.

China has commissioned its first solar thermal power plant. Solar energy is stored in molten sand so that it can be used to generate electricity day and night. Similar plants are already working in the US and Spain. An coal company in India has started building its third solar power project. It will include 238,000 panels and is scheduled to be generating by the middle of next year. 

Solar projects in Kiribati, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tuvalu are helping to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Renewables and fossil fuels

In the wake of last week’s reports that oil giant Shell is having a fire sale of its New Zealand assets, prospecting company ION Geophysical has also now relinquished its oil surveying permits, which covered almost half of New Zealand’s waters, reports Greenpeace. US-based company, TGS, also withdrew its application for its major offshore prospecting permit off the West Coast of the North Island. 

Globally, oil discoveries are at a 70-year low, reports Bloomberg. With oil prices down by more than half since the price collapse two years ago, drillers have cut their exploration budgets to the bone. Some of the world’s largest energy companies are saddled with their highest debt levels ever as they struggle with low crude prices, raising worries about their ability to pay dividends and find new barrels.

Victoria is to introduce a permanent ban on all onshore unconventional gas exploration, including fracking and coal seam gas, becoming the first Australian state to do so. Scientists have found a way to use grass near power plants as a way of revealing the level of carbon dioxide they churn out, reports Stuff.

Energies like wind and solar are often described as alternative, clean, carbon neutral, distributed and sustainable. Cleantechnica looks at what each of those terms means and how they should be applied.

Power prices

The Commerce Commission has reprimanded most of New Zealand's main electricity companies for their unfair customer contracts, reports Radio NZ. The affected companies are Mercury, Meridian Energy, Contact Energy, Trustpower, Genesis Energy, Powershop, Pulse, Nova and The Lines Company.

Climate change

The planet is warming at a pace not experienced within the past 1,000 years, at least, making it “very unlikely” that the world will stay within a crucial temperature limit agreed by nations just last year, according to Nasa’s top climate scientist. 

Climate scientist Ed Hawkins has produced an infographic (above) that shows how quickly climate change is accelerating. It combines 167 global temperature maps - one for every year from 1850 to 2016 - into a single chart. 

The ocean between New Zealand and Australia is one of the fastest-warming ocean regions on the planet, heating up at four times the global average. Now scientists are working to understand what this accelerated warming means for the coastal environments of both countries and their resident marine species.


There are now 15 models of electric vehicles being sold in NZ. Ecotricity has put together an EV Buyers Guide along with useful links to help buyers make the right decision. An Otago Polytechnic associate professor has developed a transport prototype that has generated interest around the world and attracted multiple partners, reports Stuff. The small vehicle would be internet controllable, could park itself, and even be linked with others to form a type of 'family car'.

Studies have found that if you install a rooftop solar system, it increases the odds that your neighbours will too. Now there’s tantalising evidence that electric vehicles have a similar dynamic, reports Vox.