Energy & solar news summary #7

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

Electricity Authority figures just out show Kiwis missed out on a total of $281 million in power savings (that's $162 for every home) last year, by not switching to their cheapest power retailer. Most were put off switching as they didn't really understand their power bill, or plan, and didn't know what other options were available.

The Electricity Authority is currently reviewing transmission costs. Scoop reports the authority received a number of submissions critical of an option that would see Northland home owners hit with a 10% hike in power prices. Northland power company Top Energy says such a big increase would be a "devastating blow" to the region. Northland Inc, the region's economic development agency, is urging the authority to find a "fairer and better" way of allocating transmission costs.

One of the country's biggest energy users, NZ Steel's Glenbrook mill, could face closure. Parent company, BlueScope Steel, says that's one of the options it's considering due to a $54.7 million shortfall. It is currently looking at ways to reduce operating costs. The mill uses gas, electricity and, at full capacity, can also consume about 800,000 tonnes of coal a year.

Last week Meridian Energy Chief Executive Mark Binns said the recent announcements to retire electricity generation at Otahuhu and Huntly meant NZ could need to develop a new power station by 2019. He even speculated that Genesis Energy could reconsider its Huntly decision. Responding this week, Genesis Chief Executive Albert Brantley said he was "still comfortable" with the call to end coal-fired generation in 2018.

Earlier this month US president Barack Obama launched the Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions from American power plants by a third by 2030. To support that he announced a number of initiatives this week which include making US$1 billion in loans available to clean tech energy companies, financing for single-family housing to make it easier to invest in clean tech and US$24 million to develop innovative solar projects in seven states.

Energy efficiency is big in California. A report shows the state's investment in energy efficient initiatives has saved US$90 billion over the past 40 years. They've also cut pollution and created hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Solar is big news in India as the government has ambitious plans to increase its solar power capacity target five-fold by 2022 - that's about the same as one-third of the country's current electricity generation capacity. It plans to build the world's largest solar power plant - covering 1500 hectares - and have it generating in early 2017. Using 46,000 solar panels India's opened the world's fully solar powered airport earlier this month. And Indian Railways, the biggest single user of energy, could become the biggest producer of solar power in the country. India is also committing to solar projects elsewhere with Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing an initiative to provide solar power to 2,800 houses in the Pacific Islands.