Global solar milestone in reach, inquiry into NZ power prices

The new ‘trackless train’ in China (Picture: Rex)

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

Global solar market demand is close to reaching 100 gigawatts for the first time, a 30% growth from 2016 levels, reports CleanTechnica.

The largest solar power array carport in North America has been opened at Michigan State University. About 18 percent of campus electrical power will be generated by solar.

Solar power technology that promises families living in villages across India a better life has won a £200,000 Newton Prize

A Dubai-based company has come up with a way of colouring solar panels gold, green, or terracotta, with an opaque finish that hides the power-generating technology inside.

Panasonic says output at the US$5 billion battery "Gigafactory" it runs with electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc could increase soon after it earlier experienced production issues.

Renewables and fossil fuels

The potential for a new massive gas field off the South Island's east coast could create 5700 jobs and bring in $32 billion in royalties, says the firm behind the field. But environmental groups say the science is clear and we should not be looking for new fossil fuels at all. The Press editorial challenges the company’s figures saying drilling for fossil fuels is not worth the costs of climate change.

Taxpayer support for the New Zealand oil and gas industry increased 3-fold under the National government, according to a new study by economic anthropologist Dr Terrence Loomis.

China – the biggest consumer of electricity in the world – does not need any new coal fired power stations, according to a new report. And Italy has set its sights on phasing out coal power plants by 2025, reports Reuters.

A UK billionaire plans to show the Australian government that heavy industry can be powered by renewables. Sanjeev Gupta is about to switch his steelworks in South Australia to a green energy mix that will include large scale solar, pumped hydro, battery storage, and demand management. He intends do do similar for bigger steel plants in Melbourne and Sydney.

Vector is investing $10 million in the Israeli software developer behind the Iron Dome missile defence system. mPrest’s software will be used by Vector to prevent summertime blackouts and cut down on carbon emissions, reports The Jerusalem Post.

Climate change

The amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere grew at record rate in 2016 to a level not seen for millions of years, potentially fuelling a 20-metre rise in sea levels and adding 3 degrees to temperatures, says the UN.

A major report reveals the health of hundreds of millions of people around the world is already being damaged by climate change.

Global negotiations seeking to implement the Paris agreement have been captured by corporate interests, according to a report released ahead of the second meeting of parties to the Paris agreement – COP23 – next week. There is still a large gap between the pledges by governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the reductions scientists say are needed to avoid dangerous levels of climate change. Australia is geared to dramatically miss its 2030 emissions reduction targets, reports RNZ.

Much of New Zealand's more than $20 billion of wastewater and stormwater systems aren't designed to withstand the potentially extreme impacts of climate change, say researchers. Read their full report here.

Power prices

New Energy Minister Megan Woods has confirmed there will be a full-scale inquiry into New Zealand power prices. She says Kiwis are paying too much for their electricity.

New Zealand businesses and households could save up to $2.3 billion a year by 2030 by implementing energy efficiency measures, says EECA.

Electric vehicles

The world’s first electric-powered ‘trackless train’ has been launched in China.

Norway, with a population of about 5 million, is currently the third largest plug-in electric vehicle market in the world — behind only China and the US. Meanwhile Australia is falling behind on electric vehicle uptake. EV sales fell 23% from 2015 to 2016 (pdf).