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Global solar atlas released, majority of Kiwis want climate action

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

The Global Solar Atlas is a new online tool that can be used by governments and investors to find the best areas for solar power generation around the world.

A newly opened power plant in Iran is the latest proof of the country’s ambitions in renewable energy, reports Euronews. Australia's power utilities and grid operators, under threat from the world's fastest take-up of home solar panels, are rushing to come up with ways to stay relevant and protect long-term revenues, reports Reuters

Tesla says that when its new Gigafactory in the US is up and running at full capacity it will produce more batteries than the rest of the world combined … by a factor of 2!

In preparation for the World Expo 2020, Dubai is rolling out solar-powered palm trees that will help visitors beat the heat while surfing the web. A ship propelled by rigid sail and solar power system, claimed to be the world’s first, is set to sail in 2018. A team of researchers has designed new "smart" solar sunglasses containing semi-transparent organic solar cells that can generate electric power enough to operate devices such as hearing aids.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Shares in major oil and gas companies are expected to plunge in value in the next three to five years because of climate change-related financial risks, meaning more investors will spurn fossil fuels.

In NZ, taxpayers will be footing a $57 million bill in the sale of Solid Energy's Stockton coal mine to remedy environmental impacts. Another two mines will be included in the $46 million sale, which waives buyer Bathurst and Talleys Mining from paying for any environmental clean-up. Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague says the government has effectively given these mines away, leaving taxpayers with responsibility for a toxic environmental mess, and a financial liability that dwarfs the sale price.

Applications are now open for this year’s NZ Low Carbon Challenge which will support six teams to grow their low carbon project or business.

Climate change

The vast majority of New Zealanders want action and leadership on climate change, reveals a survey by Pure Advantage.

Unless the world tackles climate change, deaths caused by air pollution are expected to increase by about 60,000 globally by 2030 - and 260,000 by 2100, according to a new study. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change shows a 90% chance that temperatures will increase this century by 2 to 4.9 degrees Celsius. Extreme heatwaves that kill even healthy people within hours will strike parts of the Indian subcontinent unless global carbon emissions are cut sharply and soon, according to new research.

A Christchurch-based project aiming to offset Donald Trump's climate change policy is beginning to flower. More than 200 backers have pledged 50,000 trees, to be planted in Trump's name, at TrumpForest.com in the first three months.

Power prices

Rain in the south has dampened fears of an electricity shortage after the South Island had its driest five months on record causing and eight-fold increase in electricity spot prices, reports RNZ.

Unison Energy is in its best-ever financial position after profits jumped 46%, says its retiring chairman. Last year the lines company that services the Hawke’s Bay, Taupo and Rotorua regions introduced a solar tax saying it was to ensure solar customers contributed fairly to the network.

Switching Gisborne street lights to LED is supposed to save ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars but a new report by council staff suggests those savings could be wiped out by expected rises in line charges.

Transport

One side-effect of consumers’ shift to electric vehicles is that the world will need less oil. Now Royal Dutch Shell’s CEO is one of those consumers driving the change. Ben van Beurden is ditching his diesel-powered car for a Mercedes-Benz S500e plug-in vehicle in September and Shell’s CFO drives a BMW i3 electric.

Auckland's snarled traffic is costing strangled businesses up to $1.9 billion each year, as some trucking firms refuse to deliver to parts of the city labelled vehicle "black holes". Climate change group Generation Zero is campaigning for an Auckland-wide fuel tax to contribute towards the projected $7 billion needed to fund Auckland transport infrastructure over the next decade. A contentious KiwiRail report makes the case for a new rail line in Auckland, claiming it would take at least 400 heavy vehicles off the road each week. An Auckland company says electric bikes are the ideal solution to the traffic gridlock plaguing the city. Big Street Bikers aims to have 10,000 electric bikes on the streets by 2020.

There is definitely one, possibly two, Tesla Model 3s in New Zealand …. and it’s been snow testing in a not so secret location here in New Zealand, reports Ecotricity.