Climate change in overdrive, dropping coal use brings hope

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

Climate change

The record-breaking heat that made 2016 the hottest year ever recorded has continued into 2017, pushing the world into “truly uncharted territory”, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. The extent of Arctic ice has fallen to a new wintertime low, as climate change drives freakishly high temperatures in the polar regions.

Led by cutbacks in China and India, construction of new coal-fired power plants is falling worldwide, improving chances climate goals can be met despite earlier pessimism, according to a joint report by CoalSwarm, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace. 

NZ’s growth model has begun to show its environmental limits according to a 10-yearly OECD report. It says all emitting sectors, including agriculture, need to take actions in the short term to curb their emissions starting from phasing out fossil fuels from the energy mix and increasing the efficiency of energy use. Massey University's Ralph Sims, the director of the Centre for Energy Research, said the assessment amounted to "another fail grade" by the OECD.

Four scenarios for reducing NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions down to zero by 2100 have been presented in a report commissioned by a cross-party group of MPs.The authors conclude any pathway to reducing the country's domestic emissions would involve substantial change to patterns of energy supply and use, including moving towards a 100 per cent renewables grid and substantial electrification of the passenger vehicle fleet and low-grade heat.

Based on these reports the DomPost says it’s time the NZ Government got serious about climate action after spending most of its time in power ignoring the problem. Executive director of the Sustainable Business Council Abbie Reynolds says it’s vital the NZ public gets to hear what the business world is doing to address climate change. 

NZ’s rising carbon emissions could cost taxpayers a total of $3.75-7.5 billion, reports Stuff. Proposed cuts to climate and environmental research in the US could leave a huge gap for New Zealand scientists in trying to predict weather patterns and climate change.

Climate change protesters disrupted the New Zealand Petroleum Conference in New Plymouth calling for an end to all new oil and gas exploration, drilling and fracking.

Power prices

The Electricity Authority has new figures that show North Islanders paying more than their southern counterparts for power will add about $40 million more to the country's coffers than previously thought, reports RNZ.

Solar and batteries

A new solar plant in Dubai, big enough to power 50,000 homes, has been completed as part of the country’s plan to generate three-quarters of its energy from renewables by 2050. Construction of Qatar’s largest solar plant will start later this year and is scheduled to be completed by 2020. Eight countries in the Middle East have more than 4 GW of solar photovoltaic power capacity under development this year.

The continuing surge in New South Wales wholesale electricity costs is likely to add even more incentive for households and business to turn to rooftop solar and battery storage in the Australian state. The NSW government says the state could boost its national lead in solar power projects with 12 new solar farm proposals in the pipeline. And Tesla has joined the growing chorus calling for a complete rethink of Australia’s energy market rules, saying they have been designed for old-fashioned centralised fossil fuel technologies, and do not encourage all the potential benefits of battery storage.

Residents of a new eco hamlet in Wales can expect greatly reduced fuel bills thanks to solar panels and a shared electric vehicle. The solar company behind the project says it was motivated by the number of people living in fuel poverty in the UK.

France has opened its first solar PV recycling facility. The secondary raw materials recovered will be used in various other sectors including aluminium, glass and copper.

A record-breaking solar panel that can convert more than a quarter of the sunlight it receives into electricity has been developed by researchers in Japan. Further work is required before the individual cells can be assembled into a commercially available solar panel. 

Renewables and fossil fuels

The route to decarbonisation in the energy sector will create benefits of US$10 trillion every year by 2050, while requiring only US$1.8 trillion to implement, according to a new joint report from the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency. The IEA has also produced a manual aimed at policy makers to debunk various myths about integrating wind and solar to the grid, while also providing solutions to bona fide problems that can arise.

The NZ government announced its 2017 block offer, opening up 481,730km² for oil and gas exploration. The area comprises 476,632 km² offshore and 5,102 km² onshore - mostly in Southland and including the shores of Lake Te Anau. Meanwhile at least $800 million of NZ government money will be spent decommissioning privately-owned offshore oil rigs over the next 25 years.

The closure of Beijing's last big coal-fired power station makes it the first coal-free city for electricity and heating in China. Japanese thermal power generation could decline to 40% below 2015 levels by 2030.

Electric vehicles

Electric vehicle registrations in NZ are halfway to their 2017 target. In less than three months this year 517 EVs were registered taking the total to 3,005. Last year new registrations of electric cars in Austria jumped 130%. It is creating a nationwide network of charging stations for electric cars, making it easier for drivers to charge up as part of the country's efforts to promote the vehicles to reduce CO2 emissions. 

The London Taxi Company opened a £325m plant in Coventry this week to produce electric black cabs and work vans for the UK and international markets. Jaguar has started testing its first ever all-electric car on the roads in London.

A new start-up says it intends to offer an electric-powered commercial flight from London to Paris in 10 years.