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Paris climate deal close to taking effect, NZ sticks with oil and gas plans

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 world’s largest solar PV plant in a single location has just been completed in India. The 648MW plant was built by 8,500 workers in just eight months. Israel is planning a tender for building its largest ever solar power facility, which will have a capacity of up to 500 megawatts, in the southern Negev desert, reports Reuters. Cosmetics maker L’Oreal will install about 9,000 thousand solar panels at two of its US manufacturing facilities to help cut carbon emissions.

Morocco has launched an ambitious programme to provide solar power for all the mosques in the kingdom. This follows news earlier this year that India planned to install solar panelson the rooftops of all protected monuments to help reduce power costs at the sites.

German scientists are piloting a project to grow crops under five-metre high solar panel roofs. They call it agro-photovoltaics.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Consultation has started on the NZ government’s proposal to open up 508,691 square kilometres of land and sea for oil and gas exploration. The Green party says it is hugely irresponsible to include part of the critically endangered Maui's dolphin marine sanctuary in the proposal. Christchurch mayor Vicki Buck says plans to open up a large area of the Canterbury coast to deep sea oil drilling are “lunacy”.

Nova Energy has announced plans to build a 360 megawatt gas-turbine generator near Otorohonga in the Waikato. The Green Party has launched a campaign to stop the project saying it would increase greenhouse gas emissions and that almost 4000 MW of renewable generation is already consented and ready to be built.

A military test project in Hawaii is generating the first wave-produced electricity to go online in the US. Los Angeles is the latest (and largest) US city committed to achieving 100% clean energy after its city council approved a motion to chart a roadmap for its zero emissions future.

Climate change

An agreement to fight global warming came one step closer to taking effect this week when dozens of countries deposited their ratification of the deal at the United Nations, taking the total to 60. The deal, agreed by nearly 200 countries in Paris last December, needs ratification by at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions to take effect. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the 60 countries represented more than 47.5 percent.

A US government report says climate change is likely to pose a significant national security challenge for the country over the next two decades by heightening social and political tensions, threatening the stability of some countries and increasing risks to human health. California will begin regulating greenhouse-gas emissions tied to dairy cows and landfills, escalating state efforts to fight climate change beyond carbon-based gases to include methane and other pollutants.

A report on New Zealand’s progress on climate change and future steps has been released by the Ministry for the Environment. Thirteen climate change research projects will receive a total of $3.1 million in funding from the Ministry of Primary Industries.

Youth Climate Change group Generation Zero has launched online scorecards for council and mayoral candidates across the country. The scores are reflections of candidates’ commitments to issues broadly related to climate change, and are available at www.localelections.nz and www.aucklandelections.nz

Power prices

If adopted, an Electricity Authority proposal to change the way the national grid is funded will cause power costs to increase and local power stations to shut, warns the Chief Executive of Pioneer Energy. A poll, in response to the Electricity Authority’s proposal to pay for the grid on a regional basis, shows over 50% of Kiwis reject the idea of cheaper power bills if it means people in different parts of the country have to pay more. It also shows 59% of respondents would come under financial pressure if their power bills were to increase.

Over 70 per cent of New Zealand electricity connections now have smart meters, according to the Electricity Authority. Smart meters are read remotely and are able to provide meter readings every half hour, if needed. Reading meters remotely cuts costs and provides usage information to customers more quickly.

Transport

One of the country's biggest shopping centre owners, Kiwi Property, will install electric vehicle charging stations at its LynnMall shopping centre, The Plaza in Palmerston North, Northlands in Christchurch and Sylvia Park mall in Auckland, reports Stuff. Electric car charging stations have just been opened in Nelson and Thames. Incentives are needed to boost the uptake of electric vehicles in New Zealand writes Michelle Dickinson in the Herald.

It would be incredibly short-sighted if KiwiRail replaces its 15 main trunk electric locomotives with cheaper diesel-powered engines, writes Lloyd Burr in an opinion piece for Newshub.

The world’s largest repurposed electric vehicle battery facility is under construction in Germany. When completed by the end of this year, it will use 1,000 former EV batteries, most of them from Smart EVs, to store up to 13 megawatt-hours of electricity. Brisbane could be home to the world's first solar electric cars after the opening of a new manufacturing workshop, reports AAP. Chinese company LeEco is making serious moves to compete with Tesla. It has just raised $1.08 billion to develop its electric car and has already invested $1.8 billion to build an electric-car plant.

A team of US undergraduates has developed a solar powered helicopter. Last week the four-rotor craft took to the air for nine seconds, lifting more than a foot off of the ground. At this early stage of development it’s fair to say it more like Kitty Hawk than Black Hawk.