Endorsing the Solar Promise

WWF-New Zealand is supporting today's launch of The Solar Promise nationwide campaign that aims to encourage all New Zealand councils to embrace solar and help protect their communities from the rising costs of electricity and continuing oil depletion.

On behalf of Kiwis facing higher energy costs, the Nelson City Council, Nelson Environment Centre, and solarcity have launched The Solar Promise, calling for councils, as well as central government, individuals and businesses, to do what they can to make solar more affordable, to help New Zealanders save money and combat climate change.

Today, nine mayors, led by Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio, held a briefing in Wellington calling for all other mayors and their councils to consider solar options for their communities.

Aldo Miccio says that a 2008 feasibility study carried out in partnership with the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) and solarcity showed the government’s solar grant alone was not enough to help communities go solar.

“The study was clear: families want the immediate cash benefits from solar’s savings, but they need to spread the cost of solar for it to be affordable,” Miccio says. “From these needs, the Solar Saver Scheme was born - an innovative rates-based financing mechanism to help home owners spread the cost of going solar. At the time, the Nelson City Council also chose to waive solar resource consents, to further reduce the barriers to solar.

“The Solar Saver Scheme has been a huge success for Nelson,” he says. “In the scheme’s first year Nelson families put more solar systems on their roofs than the whole of Auckland City, immediately getting up to one week’s free power every month.

“We believe the Solar Saver Scheme is a vital policy tool for all councils, to assist their communities to reduce their energy costs, while also helping to maximise the contribution from solar to our nation’s renewable energy target.

“The goal of The Solar Promise is to make solar more affordable, and there are many ways that individuals, businesses and local government can support that happening,” he says. “One way is to go to The Solar Promise website and pledge a promise – to encourage your council to put in a Solar Saver Scheme as part of this year’s long term planning process - that is something we can all do easily to help make change.

“Nelson City Council’s pledge to The Solar Promise is to continue to waive resource consent fees for solar installation, retain the Solar Saver Scheme, and encourage all councils to consider a number of key solar policies in their upcoming Long Term Plan.”

Other Mayors supporting The Solar Promise today include:

• Hastings Mayor, and Local Government New Zealand President, Lawrence Yule, whose council is actively reviewing Nelson’s Solar Saver Scheme for its community.

• Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown whose council is interested in clean technologies such as solar for Wellington as part of its strategy “Toward 2040: A Smart Green Wellington.”

• Marlborough District Mayor Alistair Sowman, whose council has committed to the Solar Saver Scheme through its Annual Plan and is running a one-year pilot programme in advance of implementation.

• Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne, whose council is considering solar as part of this year’s Long Term Plan.

• Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, whose council is implementing Solar Saver Schemes this year.

• Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno and Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks; whose councils have endorsed their local economic development agency, Venture Southland, to run the country’s first regional solar pilot to debunk myths that solar water heating won't perform well in Southland. Their building control officers have also been trained in best practice for solar water heating installations.

• Whanganui Mayor Annette Main, whose council is looking at ways to encourage the use of solar power in their community, and is including discussions on the introduction of the scheme in its upcoming 10 year plan process.

Meanwhile, Auckland City Council’s 250 home solar pilot scheme goes to tender today, with the goal of examining the performance and community support for a Solar Saver Scheme in the Auckland region.

WWF-New Zealand welcomes the leadership shown by The Solar Promise to get solar on more Kiwis homes.

Lee Barry, WWF-New Zealand's Climate Change Campaigner, says: “If more solar can be installed on New Zealand homes, this will help save energy and reduce the need to build new power generating capacity. With solar on every Kiwi home, we can save the equivalent of Huntly Power Station’s annual output, reducing our carbon emissions and playing our part in the global fight against climate change which threatens species and people worldwide.”