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Big solar projects power up, India loves clean energy

Iran's solar development is attracting international energy producers. Image: PressTV

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

Rooftop solar systems now have the combined capacity to be the biggest power station in Queensland, Australia. Iran has inaugurated a major solar power plant as the country is pressing ahead with an ambitious agenda to use renewable energy resources. Puerto Rico has unveiled what officials say is the Caribbean's largest solar plant in operation. Construction has begun on a 754-MW solar power park in Mexico that will be the largest in all of North and South America when it becomes operational next year.

The Climate Reality Project profiles five solar celebrities who practice what they preach.

Renewables and fossil fuels

India added nearly twice as much renewable energy capacity than coal power capacity in the latest financial year. This year almost 10 gigawatts of solar power capacity is expected to be commissioned which could make India the third largest solar power market in the world.

Australia is experiencing its biggest ever investment spree in large scale renewable energy, and the 2020 renewable energy target, once considered impossible to meet, is now well within reach, reports Renew Economy.

Australia’s big four banks have all ruled out funding or withdrawn from a large coal mining project in Queensland. The latest was Westpac which released a new climate policy last week saying it would not back opening up new coal mining regions.

Consent for Nova Energy’s gas-fired peaking plant in Otorohanga is a step backwards for NZ efforts to generate more renewable electricity, says the Green Party. The NZ Super Fund announced its climate change policy last October but it has yet to sell off any fossil fuels as promised. According to Green Party analysis the Super Fund has more than doubled its coal investments to at least $90 million over the past five years. 'Secret' plans to mine for coal on conservation land on the west coast of the South Island have been criticised by Forest & Bird.

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at expanding offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans — and maybe even in the Pacific Ocean - in a move that elicited a backlash from a coalition of environmental groups.

Climate change

Tens of thousands of NZ coastal homes might not be eligible for insurance due to the increasing risk posed on them by the effects of climate change, a new report suggests. This could send the value of waterfront properties values into freefall, resulting in fiscal risks for banks and the government, writes Lynn Grieveson for Stuff. The government wants an assessment of how New Zealand can cut emissions at the least cost to meet its emissions reduction target of 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. It has asked the the Productivity Commission to look at the cost and benefits of moving to a low-carbon economy.

From an idea floated in Rolling Stone magazine just five years ago, divestment – the withdrawal of investments in immoral industries – has grown into a global campaign. Now New Zealand businesses, government organisations and community groups are being encouraged to join the movement, writes 350 Aotearoa’s Niamh O’Flynn.

Thousands of people across the US marched in rain, snow and sweltering heat to demand action on climate change in mass protests that coincided with president Donald Trump’s 100th day in office and took aim at his agenda for rolling back environmental protections. About 600 people in Christchurch joined the global event.

Scientific America provides some perspective on how much carbon dioxide human activity produces using words and pictures. 

In a new global initiative called Unmask My City, health groups are using air quality monitors, smartphones, and innovative LED light masks that change colour according to pollution levels to highlight the preventable and direct impacts of air pollution that is driving climate change and a public health crisis.

Electric vehicles

The CEO of Volkswagen says “the future of driving is electric”, and, while the company is investing 9 billion euros in electric car development, it’s spending even more on improving internal combustion engines. US auto giant General Motors says it is poised to become the first manufacturer to make a profit from electric vehicles. Electric cars could one day run on lithium-air batteries that have over three times the capacity of lithium-ion batteries, say US scientists.

Waste Management has started trialling its first electric truck in NZ as part of the company’s plans to progressively shift to electric vehicles over the next five years.