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Energy & solar news summary #5

We’re all about saving you energy, so we’ve rounded up this week’s solar and energy news so you don’t have to.

Household energy prices increased last year by 3.8%, while inflation was only 0.1%, and the government is being asked to step in, reports Stuff. New Zealand has endured one of its coldest winters on record, and other Government agencies - most notably Housing NZ - have come under fire over damp and icy living conditions. In June, a coroner ruled that the death of Auckland 2-year-old Emma-Lita Bourne was partly attributable to the poor condition of the state house her family was living in. Before her death, Housing NZ provided the family with a heater but they could not afford to power it.

While solar generation is still small scale in New Zealand government figures show it’s growing fast. The Energy in New Zealand report released this week shows generation from solar more than doubled in 2014 compared to the previous year. This increase comes as the country’s renewable electricity generation hit 80%, the highest since 1996 but still well below the 1980 high of 91%.

Australia announced its new target to cut carbon emissions by at least 26% by 2030 based on 2005 levels. Critics say Australia has not been ambitious enough nor does it have the policy tools to deliver on its promise. 

Australia is not doing particularly well, but New Zealand is doing worse, says Victoria University climate change scientist James Renwick on Stuff. Today’s Dominion shows how much NZ has now fallen behind Australia. Paul Young, co-founder of Generation Zero, says we will be seen as no longer deserving of tourism taglines such as "100 Per Cent Pure" as a result of its global warming stance.

Maybe we could learn something from China. A visiting scholar, Dr Eric Martinot, told Radio NZ that while China is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, it is also the world leader in renewable energy and deserves respect from the international community. He also highlighted the important role that programmes like our solarZero plan have played in the rapid uptake of solar in the US. 

Also visiting this country and speaking to Radio NZ this week was the vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele. He says while it’s not too late to take action on climate change many Pacific Islands will face an uncertain future as sea levels continue to rise.

The number of electric vehicles in the world is expected to hit one million next month. Cleantechnica has published a handy infographic which shows where those cars are being sold and which are the most popular.

Norway says it wants all its cars to be electric by 2025. To encourage drivers to make the switch the government was a long list of incentives including no road tax or registration fee, no sales tax, no tolls on roads, bridges, and tunnels, and free public parking, ferry transport and charging.

And in Britain there are plans later this year to build an experimental road which can charge up battery-powered cars wirelessly. This means cars would not have to stop in order to re-charge an electric battery on long journeys.