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Rising power prices under scrutiny, electricity sector tries solar slap down

A Greenpeace-led demonstration blocks entry to the annual NZ Petroleum conference in Auckland this week.

We're all about saving you energy and have rounded up the latest solar and energy news so you don't have to.

We launched a social media campaign to expose increasing electricity costs and unfair pricing for Kiwi families just as power companies are announcing electricity prices are going up again from April 1. You could be paying hundreds of dollars more for your power, just because of your address. A comparison using Consumer NZ's Powerswitch data shows a family of four could pay $600 a year more if they lived in the Far North than if they lived in Wellington. Government data confirms Kerikeri, Balclutha and Westport have the country's highest power bills.

A report concluding electric vehicles are far more useful to New Zealand for reducing carbon emissions than rooftop solar power was released on Tuesday. No surprises there as the transport sector creates more than double the amount of carbon emissions (44%) compared to the electricity sector (17%), according government figures. So, why the negative spin? Surely we should be doing everything possible to reduce emissions with continuing run of record breaking global temperatures. Here’s our response to the report. 

One of our key suppliers, Enphase Energy, announced that it has made a USD$4.4 million investment to expand its global research and development facility in Christchurch.

The annual NZ Petroleum Conference was held in Auckland this week. About 150 people joined a Greenpeace-led demonstration and blocked all the main entrances to the SkyCity convention centre venue. They were opposing the government's continued investment in drilling, despite the industry's failure to find any deep sea oil. Inside the venue, Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges launched the 2016 Block Offer petroleum tender. The total acreage included in the tender is 525,515km², including 1,062 km² onshore. The outcome of the tender will likely be announced in December.

Southland's aluminium smelter has been given more time to make up its mind on how much electricity it buys for its plant at Tiwai Point. The deadline for this was 30 April, but after a new agreement it will now have until 29 July to reveal its intentions. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s latest Energy Quarterly  the share of renewable electricity generation hit 80.7% in 2015.

The rate of carbon emissions is higher than at any time in fossil records stretching back 66 million years to the age of the dinosaurs, according to a study that sounds an alarm about risks to nature from man-made global warming. The world’s rapidly dwindling freshwater resources could be further depleted if plans for hundreds of new coal power plants worldwide go ahead, threatening severe drought and competition, according to a new Greenpeace International report. Breaking with tradition, cheap oil no longer foretells disaster for renewable energy companies. On the contrary, disillusioned fossil fuel investors are seeking high-growth opportunities - just in time to ride the renewables wave in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate talks.Germany’s coal fired generation will be worthless in little more than a decade if the country adopts the targets embraced at the Paris climate change conference, a new analysis from Barclays says.

Cochin International Airport, in India, was the first airport in the world to run on 100 percent solar energy. It no longer has to buy electricity and contributes energy back to the grid thanks to the tens of thousands of solar panels spread across the site. The South African government hopes solar power could be the answer to the country's energy crisis. Over the past year, the country has struggled to meet its energy demands. Rolling blackouts and power cuts have caused huge headaches for business and hit productivity across the economy. The Marshall Islands will become the third country to ratify the Paris climate change agreement following Fiji and Palau.

Legendary car designer Henrik Fisker says that despite a sluggish start he thinks the EV market is set to grow. He also has opinions about hydrogen powered vehicles and driverless cars. Electric vehicle sales and production will double in China in 2016, according to recent reports. New Plymouth now has its own charging station for electric cars, and there are plans for 100 to be rolled out throughout the country. Auckland Transport has pulled the plug on plans for an electric car share scheme for the city. The project could have taken hundreds of cars off the road every day - but the agency tasked with the tender rejected every single applicant. Japan has made another technological leap unveiling the first electrical car in the world that will run without a battery instead receiving its charge from an electrified road. Dr Greg Chawynski, from 10 Star Homes, says all Kiwis, in the future, will have electric cars powered by solar from their homes.

New street lighting technology to be used in Las Vegas offers an off-grid solution. In addition to photovoltaic panels on top of the lights, pads in the sidewalk harvest kinetic energy from passing pedestrians to help provide power. Lewis-Weber has just published a paper in the journal New Space with what he thinks could be the solution to the upcoming energy crisis: putting self-replicating solar panels in space. You’ve heard about driverless cars. Now a London-based startup has reportedly created a riderless electric bike.