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NZ solar jumps 184% in two years, grid pricing proposal under fire

Residential solar uptake in NZ. Graphic: Electricity Authority

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 number or residential installations in NZ increased by 184% over the past two years to reach a total of 10,586, according to Electricity Authority figures.

Rotterdam, which is the largest port in Europe, has just installed 3100 rooftop solar panels which will also supply power to the city. A US solar company has unveiled plans to build six large solar tower power plants with molten salt storage in South Australia. Architecture Now features 15 sustainable, low-energy buildings that utilise a mix of passive and active solar design techniques and technologies. A Swedish hotel, to be built out of ice, will stay frozen all year round thanks to solar power.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Carbon dioxide emissions from geothermal electricity generation are now higher than coal in the electricity sector, reports ecotricity. 

Global oil demand growth is slowing at a faster pace than initially predicted, according to the International Energy Association.

Despite the nice-sounding public statements, the fossil fuel industry isn't about to roll over and accept policies threatening its core business model, writes Josh Freeman in the NZ Herald. He says that with trillions of dollars at stake, the industry is fighting the transition to clean energy every step of the way. Renewable power generation costs are already lower, on average worldwide, than fossil fuels , according to a new report from Carbon Tracker Initiative. Otago University has committed to exclude fossil fuels from its investment portfolio.

General Motors plans to generate or source all electrical power for its 350 operations in 59 countries with 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Power prices

The Electricity Authority (EA) is proposing changes to how power costs are determined, which could hit the pockets of thousands of Kiwi homes and businesses. The changes would introduce a location-based pricing scheme, dropping prices in Southland and Otago but raising them in upper North Island. Meanwhile, Trustpower is calling for a judicial review of the consultation process around the proposal. Northpower says the proposal could see Northlanders paying $15.5 million for a service that has "effectively declined". The owners of the Glenbrook Steel Mill says proposed increased power costs of $12.1 million could force it to close. And the Independent Electricity Generators Association says another EA proposal to alter the rules and funding for the country’s 90 local power stations could force many to shut down.

As part of separate review, the Electricity Authority has set up an online survey for customers of The Lines Company in the King Country so they can share their concerns about the company’s peak demand pricing model.

Climate change

August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to Nasa.

The United States has joined more than 20 countries in announcing the creation of 40 new marine sanctuaries around the world to protect the world's oceans from the threat of climate change and pollution. A group of international scientists is calling for a coordinated global effort to help predict how climate change will affect species and to protect future biodiversity. Iconic NZ species that are likely to be affected by climate change include tuatara, little spotted kiwi, black robin, takahē, black-eyed gecko and Archey’s frog.

Concerns that taking action against climate change can affect economic growth are unfounded say a group of EU ambassadors. They say that since 1990 the EU has cut emissions by 23% while GDP has grown by 46%. Most Americans are willing to pay a little more each month to fight global warming — but only a tiny bit, according to a new poll. Still, environmental policy experts hail that as a hopeful sign, reports Associated Press.

Electric vehicles

On Monday the Government launched International Drive Electric Week to promote the benefits of electric vehicles. There are 1791 electric cars registered in New Zealand, supported by 142 public charging points and 38 rapid charging stations across the country, reports Newshub. The Government has a target of 64,000 electric cars on the roads by the end of 2021. 

Wellington's first solar-power electric vehicle charging station has been opened to the public by the Sustainability Trust. Commercial property developers are being advised to plug themselves into the electric car market now, to avoid costly parking refits later on. In the UK electric car charging points could appear alongside petrol pumps at Shell service stations as soon as next year, reports the Guardian.

Five years since the launch of its first electric car Renault has handed over the keys to its 100,000th electric car customer. Project Titan, Apple’s secret electric car program that was green lit by Tim Cook two years ago, is facing a serious crisis, reports Cult of Mac.

An engineer and his solar-powered tuk-tuk have arrived in Britain at the end of a seven-month, 10,000 kilometre overland adventure that started in India.