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New home battery for Kiwis, fossil fuel use doubles in NZ

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

In partnership with Panasonic we released a second generation home storage battery this week that we’ll be installing as part of our solarZero+ energy service. Battery storage will help reduce pressure on the grid and protect homeowners as NZ’s energy supply comes under strain and power prices spike over winter.

The annual benefits of solar installed in the US include cutting CO2 levels by an estimated 17 million metric tons. By reducing the need to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, solar is preventing deaths from circulatory and respiratory ailments, reducing sicks days and asthma incidents, says a Department of Energy report. The world’s most powerful rooftop solar project is now generating in Los Angeles. Installed on a massive distribution centre it includes 50,000 solar panels generating up to 16.4 megawatts - equivalent to powering 5,000 homes.

A solar PV plant in the shape of a Panda has opened in China, according the the company that built it. Photos of the plant have yet to be released. Facebook has taken a major step towards creating a solar-powered drone designed to beam internet access to remote areas of the world. A firm in the United Arab Emirates has developed an air-conditioned bed which runs on solar energy.

Renewables and fossil fuels

New Zealand has doubled the amount of fossil fuel it uses to make electricity. Figures from Transpower show 27.85 percent of New Zealand's electricity has been generated by burning coal or gas during the past week. That's up from an average of 13.11 percent over the past 52 weeks. 

The gross profit margin on petrol at the pump has doubled to about 30 cents a litre in Wellington and the South Island over the past four years, and the price of fuel – ignoring taxes – is now the highest in the OECD, says a government study.

Germany raised the proportion of its power produced by renewable energy to 35 percent in the first half of 2017 from 33 percent the previous year.

Oil companies planning to drill near a vast coral reef at the mouth of the Amazon river have calculated that the unique ecosystem has a 30 percent chance of being affected in the event of an oil spill.

Climate change

Hopes that the world’s huge carbon emissions might not drive temperatures up to dangerous levels have been dashed by new research, reports the Guardian.

Successive Australian governments have been swayed by corporate fossil-fuel interests and have deliberately refused to acknowledge climate change for the past 20 years, says Ian Dunlop, a former international oil, gas and coal industry executive. And an Australian economist, Roderick Campbell, has criticised the Australian government’s claims to be helping the Pacific with climate aid while subsidising a key source of climate change – Australia’s coal industry. Meawhile Pacific leaders are in agreement that climate action in the Pacific needs to be accelerated and have called on leaders of the G20 countries to confirm their commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

India has broken its own world record by planting 66 million trees in just 12 hours. Under the Paris Agreement India has committed to increasing its forests by five million hectares before 2030 to combat climate change.

The NZ government is facing fresh legal action over alleged inadequate greenhouse emissions targets.The new case is being brought by the Mataatua District Maori Council over the Government allegedly failing to fulfil Treaty of Waitangi obligations to protect Maori land and property. A Buller District councillor has suggested Westport might have to be moved further inland as climate change takes hold.

Power prices

A survey of customer satisfaction with energy providers shows the big five companies - Contact, Genesis, Mercury, Meridian and Trustpower are delivering underwhelming services, says Consumer NZ. The survey also showed 30 percent of customers deliberately cut back on heating in winter, blaming power prices.

Each winter, cold houses in New Zealand cause the death of almost 1600 people, and hundreds of thousands more have their health and well being severely curtailed. A combination of high electricity prices and cold damp houses are forcing many New Zealanders to decide between food and heat this winter, writes Peter Newport in The Spinoff.

Four Dunedin flatmates responding to an Otago Daily Times poll, say their power bills have skyrocketed this winter - their latest was $710.

Electric vehicles

France will end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 as part of an ambitious plan to meet its targets under the Paris climate accord. All new cars launched by Volvo from 2019 onwards will be partially or completely battery-powered. It is the first major manufacturer to make such a bold move. Norway set a new record in June with electric vehicles making up 42% of new car sales for the month. 

Almost 280 electric vehicles were registered in NZ during June, the highest number in a single month. NZ now has more than 3700 EVs on the road. The Flip the Fleet project encourages owners of electric vehicles in NZ to upload data from their cars to create a broad picture of how EVs are performing under NZ conditions. In return they get monthly reports on distance travelled, savings and avoided CO2 emissions.