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Renewables leave coal in the dust, NZ oceans hit by climate change

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

About 500,000 solar panels were installed daily around the world last year, says a new report from the International Energy Agency. It predicts that over the next five years 30,000 solar panels will be installed every hour. It also says he world's capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources has now overtaken coal.

Solar power capacity in the US will have nearly tripled in size in less than three years by 2017 amid an energy shakeup that has seen natural gas solidify its position as the country’s chief source of electricity and coal power continue to fade, according to monthly data published by the US Department of Energy. The Victorian government in Australia has confirmed plans to give payments of up to AU$0.30 kWh to residential solar system owners that supply electricity to the grid during peak hours.

Kuwait began operating its first-ever solar power plant this week at the Umm Gudair oil field, a landmark for the OPEC member country as it seeks to diversify its sources of energy to meet fast-rising local demand. In Jordan the combination of high solar yields, plummeting solar PV plant costs and high electricity prices has created a perfect environment for solar PV distributed generation.

Renewables

Japan, South Korea, China and Russia are working together to generate and share renewable energy. Sweden is on track to produce all its energy from renewable sources by 2040, reports Reuters. Convinced that a rapid transition away from fossil fuels would be a “win-win” for the city, Amsterdam officials are committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80–90 percent by 2050, largely eliminating reliance on fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels were always intended as bridge fuels until a clean, inexhaustible source of energy could be developed that was economically viable, writes Daniel Fleischmann for Renewable Energy World. He says rapid technological innovation and improved efficiency in the wind and solar industries are making them the obvious alternatives.

Fossil fuels

Chinese leaders have called a halt to construction work on 30 large coal-fired power. This unprecedented move indicates just how serious the Chinese authorities are about bringing the country’s coal power bubble under control, reports Greenpeace.

A proposed gas-fired power plant to be built in south Waikato is being slammed by the Green Party that says it would severely impact NZ’s commitments to the Paris Agreement. It says the Government should 'call in' the application so it can be considered on a national level. Eleven organisations have called on the New Zealand Super Fund to fully divest from fossil fuels. The Super Fund announced last week it would start pulling out of the biggest polluters, but would not be divesting from all fossil fuels.

Climate change

Increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide – largely from global burning of fossil fuels – and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – are changing the state of New Zealand’s oceans, says a new report from the Ministry of Environment. Our Marine Environment 2016 says vast numbers of marine life are at risk of extinction due to factors including climate change and the fishing industry. New Zealand is already experiencing changes in the frequency of extreme weather due to a changing climate, says a new study led by Victoria University researchers. It also found that in the future droughts are likely to be more frequent and intense.

Greenhouse gases rose to a symbolic milestone in 2015, taking climate change into a new phase which could last generations even if governments act to curb man-made global warming, says the UN World Meteorological Organisation. Southern Spain will become desert and deciduous forests will vanish from much of the Mediterranean basin unless global warming is reined in sharply, according to a study .

Power prices

Big winter power bills have prompted many New Zealand households to see if they can get a better deal on their electricity. Around 111,000 Kiwis switched power companies between June 1 and August 31, according to the Electricity Authority.

Electric vehicles

Retrofitting vehicles to run using electric motors is capturing the attention of businesses and amateurs around the world, reports the Guardian. Electric car maker Tesla Motors posted its first quarterly profit in three years, giving investors reason to cheer after months of doubt. Tesla said it also remains on track to start deliveries of its $35,000 Model 3 electric car in the second half of 2017.