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Coal between a rock and a hard place while clean energy sets records

Curved mirrors concentrate the sun’s energy at a newly opened solar power plant in the Sahara Desert. CIF/World Bank 

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

NZ consumers now have the right to request more information about their household's power consumption and it is being tipped to lead to a new industry of power price comparison services. Forsyth Barr broker Suzanne Kinnaird tells the Otago Daily Times about the industry conditions causing mixed performances for NZ power companies. Scientists at the University of Otago are trying to forecast "space weather" to investigate how explosions from the Sun could affect New Zealand's power grid. The Government has revealed that climate change research staff lost their jobs during a restructure at crown institute AgResearch late last year. The Climate Reality Project shows how 11 countries are providing blueprints for a global shift to renewable energy. And, no, NZ is not one of them.

A new study has concluded that policy makers and investors around the globe are embracing renewable, energy efficient, and flexible electricity sources. At the same time another report says many Australians are losing thousands of dollars a year from their retirement savings because their super funds continue to invest in fossil fuel companies. The Guardian reports that more than half of the mines in Queensland, Australia that produce thermal coal for power stations are losing money. Seemingly unrelated events in the last few weeks suggest that future of coal in India is looking shaky.

Banks of batteries and other technologies could lower energy bills and help renewable power, says the energy storage industry as it gears up for bumper year. The demand for certified renewable energy is growing in Europe. The Netherlands is the fastest growing market although it has one of the lowest shares of renewable energy generation.

A divided US Supreme Court has blocked President Barack Obama’s sweeping plan to cut emissions from power plants, putting on hold his most ambitious effort to combat climate change. Meanwhile, the growth of clean energy in the US outstripped fossil fuels in 2015 for the second year running and New York has released a proposal to reach 50% renewables by 2030. China also had a record year for growth in wind and solar generation last year. 

Morocco has officially turned on a massive solar power plant in the Sahara Desert, kicking off the first phase of a planned project to provide renewable energy to more than a million Moroccans. French oil and gas company Total has acquired stakes in two solar power start-ups in Africa as it expands into renewable energy. The UK wind energy industry received a boost this week with the announcement of the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, to be built off the northeast coast. Australian telecommunications giant Telstra plans to accelerate the rollout of solar and battery storage technologies, and is looking to offer home energy services to millions of consumers in the first sign it will take on the major energy utilities.

Britain is close to an electric car revolution which could see driverless vehicles charge up as they use a Scalextric-style road network across the country. In the wake of last year’s diesel emissions scandal VW says it now intends to release the world’s first high-volume, mass market electric car.

A large group of climate scientists is warning that we are locking in climate changes that will play out over as many as 10,000 years. Scientists are calling for urgent monitoring of Antarctic ice shelves, as a new paper finds large areas of ice could lose their land-locked roots if as little as 5 to 13 per cent of the shelves were to disappear. Victoria University is hosting the Pacific Climate Change Conference in Wellington on Feb 15-17. The conference, ‘In The Eye of the Storm’, will draw together experts across business, science, law, media and the arts to explore the effects, challenges and possible solutions to climate change in the Pacific.

The Super Bowl was played earlier this week in the greenest stadium in the US which includes an impressive solar system. NASA is designing its first spacecraft that will venture beyond Earth’s orbit propelled entirely by sunlight using solar sail technology. Solar-powered drones could deliver goods in rural areas, charged by micro-solar home systems.