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Grandmothers light up India and death by a thousand cuts

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

Southlanders paying hundreds of dollars a month to heat their homes are confused as to how power became so costly. Some are reporting power bills of up to $1200 a month. Natalie Harrex says she received a $700 power bill in August and there was no reasonable explanation. "Just imagine how expensive it's going to be in 10 years' time," she told the Southland Times.

A little further north, in Marlborough, Pete and Penny Wilkinson are making the most of the region's sunshine hours by living a solar-powered lifestyle. They have nine solar panels set up in their garden to power their house, cars, scooter and tools.

And much further north, the Barefoot College in India is training impoverished women - many of them grandmothers - to become solar engineers. After training, they return to their home to install solar panels, maintain them and transform their villages. 

Mike Underhill, the chief executive of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, says NZ has enough consented renewable generation to run our entire fleet of cars on electricity. Since company car fleets make up 70 per cent of new car purchases, EECA is promoting electric vehicles to fleet managers and will launch an online tool later this year to help them weigh up the total cost of ownership.

Spoiler alert. Which is the fastest car in a straight out sprint? The fully electric Tesla Model S of a Holden V8 supercar? Watch this video to find out. While the high price tag of a Tesla puts it out of reach of most car buyers, over half of UK motorists are considering switching to electric and hybrid cars - partly as a result of the continuing diesel emissions scandal.

Almost four tonnes of oil has spilled into NZ's harbour and oceans since the Rena disaster. While most of the spills have been relatively small - ranging from a few millilitres to several thousand litres - Professor Chris Battershill of Waikato University likens it to "death by a thousand cuts" and says there is need for heightened vigilance. Solid Energy has confirmed its plans to close its underground Huntly East coal mine saying it has "no chance whatsoever of attracting a buyer".

A new report reveals that solar has overtaken wind power as Australia's top source of renewable energy. At the same time the Australian government says it wants to encourage the widespread deployment of household battery storage to reduce peak power demands. And the head of California-based technology company Enphase Energy says battery storage will become "the norm" for Australian households in as few as three years because of the savings to be made from combining it with rooftop solar panels. The largest solar plant in the southern hemisphere was opened in Australia earlier this year. Now, six months later, Australia's second largest solar plant has just had the final panels installed and is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.

Climate experts who have analysed submissions in the run up to the Paris Climate talks later this year say pledges by nations to cut carbon emissions will fall short of the those needed to prevent global temperatures rising by more than the crucial 2C by the end of the century. And another study, released by Climate Central, says no matter what we do to curb global warming, sea level rise will devastate coastal populations in the US.