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Big changes to NZ power pricing ahead and big slump for US coal

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

Analysts are forecasting big changes to the electricity industry which will be announced on May 17. They say the billion dollar cost of transmitting electricity around the country on the national grid will be substantially re-allocated. As a result, most people in the South Island will get lower bills and people in the upper half of the North Island will pay more. A looming supply squeeze in the electricity market could be the first time customers experience the downside of power price plans that follow wholesale rates, reports Stuff. 

The NZ government is under fire for contributing $100,000 in taxpayer’s money to an oil industry conference. ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, and three oil-industry groups together spend $115 million a year on advocacy designed to “obstruct” climate change policy, according to new estimates released by a British non-profit research organisation.

New Zealand will be among 130 countries to sign the Paris climate agreement next week. The UN climate chief says the global agreement could come into force two years earlier than the planned date of 2020. Israel’s cabinet has unanimously approved a plan for reducing greenhouse gases and increasing energy efficiency to benefit the economy by more than $8 billion. Global warming is shifting the way the Earth wobbles on its polar axis, a new NASA study finds.

The World Bank has made a “fundamental shift” in its role of alleviating global poverty, by refocusing its financing efforts towards tackling climate change. Sir David Attenborough has warned the Great Barrier Reef (pictured above) is in ‘grave danger’ of disappearing ‘within decades’ because of climate change. Many of the world’s smallest islands are in danger of drying out because of climate change. Researchers have estimated 73 percent of the world's small island nations could become more arid by 2050, affecting nearly 16 million people. A group of US youngsters has won a major decision in their efforts to sue the federal government over climate change. An Oregon judge ruled that their lawsuit, which alleges the government violated the constitutional rights of the next generation by allowing the pollution that has caused climate change, can go forward.

US coal production, so far this year, is running more than 30 percent below the comparable period in 2015, reflecting an historic shift in both the coal industry and the electric power sector it serves. And this week the country’s largest coal miner, Peabody Energy, filed for bankruptcy protection. In Britain the sun provided homes and businesses with more power than coal-fired power stations for 24 hours last weekend. Analysts said the symbolic milestone showed how dramatic coal’s decline had been due to carbon taxes, as solar had “exploded” across the UK in recent years.

China has voiced support for India’s decision to file an appeal against a recent WTO ruling which held the government’s power purchase agreements with solar firms as “inconsistent” with international norms. The US Air Force is tapping into the US Army’s experience with private sector financing for onsite solar installations so it can reach its goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025. And the US Navy is the first branch of the country's military, "the world's single largest user of fossil fuels", to say it will start requiring big vendors to report their output of climate-changing greenhouse gases and work to lower it.

An Australian apartment development is expected to be the world’s largest test project of shared rooftop solar, battery storage and electric vehicles. A Hawke's Bay proposal to turn Te Awanga and Clifton into New Zealand's first solar-power settlement is under consideration. A group of residents from Great Barrier Island who live entirely off the grid, say solar energy can provide enough power to run a household all year round as long as you have enough photovoltaic panels on your roof.

Scientists in China have developed a prototype all-weather solar panel that can generate electricity from the sun as well as any rain that falls on it. A solar-powered machine that stores electricity, purifies water, and connects local residents to the internet has been given a trial run in Ghana. Solar-panelled ‘nests’ which include a sleeping area, toilet, heater, and self-sustaining electricity for homeless people to sleep in are set to come to the streets of Wales. And, in India, a solar-powered mobile model polling station is being used to promote the voter experience ahead of elections.

Economist Geoff Simmons goes for a test drive in a fully electric Nissan Leaf and talks with Sigurd Magnusson ahead of NZ road trip promoting electric vehicles which is now underway. High-profile American electric vehicle advocate Chelsea Sexton who joined the trip says that while NZ is theoretically an ideal market for EVs because we have 80 per cent renewable electricity, lack of government support and lack of available product has held the technology back. Electric vehicle charging company Charge.net.co.nz has installed six $50,000 units at Z stations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. 

Think driverless cars look like something from a 1950s kids’ story book? Then take a look at the “world’s first” all-electric, driverless racing car which appears far more futuristic and will be on race tracks soon.

The finalists for the 2016 EECA Awards for excellence and innovation in energy efficiency or renewable energy have been named. The winners will be announced on May 18.