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NZ urged to cut climate emissions, Huntly coal power to keep going

Transitioning to a low carbon economy. Royal Society of New Zealand.

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Climate change

The Paris agreement on climate change marked a major milestone with a record 175 countries signing on to it at the end of last week. But world leaders made clear more action is needed, and quickly, to fight a relentless rise in global temperatures. New Zealand has set a target of reducing emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. According to Statistics NZ net greenhouse gas emissions increased 42 percent between 1990 and 2013. Total emissions increased 21 percent. 

The Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, called for bold action on climate change as did editorials in the NZ Herald and The Press. The Royal Society of New Zealand released a report showing how we can transition to a low carbon economy. It says there are good opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improvements in energy, transport, building, agriculture, industry and land use. It goes to say that it is technically and economically possible for NZ to reach, or surpass, its target of 90% electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Meanwhile Genesis Energy has extended the life of its coal-fired Huntly units until December 2022. Newshub reports anti-coal activists are aghast and Greenpeace says Genesis should be prepared for the “climate fight of 2016”. The Royal Society of NZ report also says considerable emissions savings could be made by moving road freight to shipping or rail. This week the government said there have been no decisions on the future of KiwiRail following news of four rejected scenarios. They included stopping the SOE’s entire freight business and splitting the company into North Island and South Island standalone entities. 

Green business think-tank Pure Advantage says planting huge new blocks of permanent native forest and fresh high-carbon commercial forests could help off-set agricultural emissions, put the country on course for a net-zero greenhouse gas future and avoid large areas of land being lost to erosion. Wellington City Council reports that the city’s gross greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 2.1% between 2001 and 2015. NZ climate change minister Paula Bennett says she is "taking advice" on whether to cancel some or all of the so-called 'dodgy' carbon credits bought mainly by power and petrol companies to cover New Zealand's future obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Solar

There are no moving parts in solar panels so how do they generate electricity? Check out this helpful infographic from SaveOnEnergy. The United States solar sector has installed over one million installations across the country, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. While it has taken 40 years to hit this milestone, it predicts it will take only two years to double the total. A new concentrated solar plant near Las Vega is able to store energy and can power 75,000 homes. San Francisco has passed a law that will require all new buildings under 10 stories to add solar panels.

Solar Impulse 2, the pioneering ‘zero fuel plane’ which began a worldwide round trip last year, landed safely in San Francisco after its 62-hour, record-setting flight over the Pacific Ocean. London commuters in the Canary Wharf business district can now enjoy waiting for buses in a new bus shelter featuring transparent solar PV glazing, which generates clean electricity. Ikea has partnered with a solar company and is about to start selling solar panels in its UK stores.

NASA is developing an advanced Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) system for future deep-space missions. It says the propulsion system could be used on robotic missions to an asteroid and in other missions related to its Journey to Mars programme. A handful of researchers, and more recently the Japanese corporation Shimizu, have been gearing up to develop solar power on the moon. The proposal is to build a solar array thats wrap around the moon’s circumference and beam the energy it generates back to Earth. 

Renewables and fossil fuels

The Commerce Commission has given Z Energy permission to takeover Caltex-owner Chevron, with some strings attached. The long-awaited decision gives Z control over a large chunk of New Zealand's retail fuel market and the Automobile Association says it could give the company more power to lift prices. 

Reports have been surfacing for the past six months, revealing just how quickly the United States is parting ways with coal. Production has already been cut dramatically and is predicted to drop further to a level last seen in 1958. Oil industry layoffs are driving Texas workers to the state’s booming solar power sector. Saudi Arabia has confirmed a new 9.5GW renewable energy target as part of its 2030 Vision initiative to move its economy away from reliance on oil. The booming LED market is expected to grow by 45% a year over the next decade and could cut the need for 100 fossil fuel energy plants.

Electric vehicles

Electric cars have their highest-profile prophet in US-based entrepreneur Elon Musk and their widest adoption in Norway, but China's vast auto market will decide their worldwide future, experts say. The country's tech giant LeEco unveiled a new electric car it hopes will rival the Tesla Motors Model S and its successors. In addition to the concept car, LeEco is partnering with Aston Martin to create electric car technology and is the backer of Faraday Future — an American electric car start-up responsible for a 1000-horsepower electric supercar concept. Germany will subsidise electric car purchases to give a jolt to sluggish growth in the sector and help meet national climate goals with zero-emission mobility. With electric vehicles making headlines recently Stuff published an idiot’s guide to electric cars in NZ.