Phone

Shell sees a solar future and Apple's electric car

We're all about saving you energy and have rounded up this week's solar and energy news so you don't have to.

Nelson woman Kelly Stewart has had "a gutsful" of her power company after receiving a second high bill ($950 for two months) despite continued efforts to use less electricity. She wants others to learn from her experience and get advice if they get an unusually high power bill and not just accept it.

Dr Rosie Bosworth, writing on the Pure Advantage blog, says we are on the verge of the most radical transformation in energy and transportation ever witnessed. She explains what the clean disruption means saying it's pushing energy into the hands of the users and away from centralised, over priced and under responsive energy utilities.

The Guardian reports that rich western countries and the world's leading developing nations are spending up to $200bn a year subsidising fossil fuels. Those subsidies undermine efforts to make our economies less carbon intensive while exacerbating the damage to human health caused by air pollution.

New policy is about to be put into place to ensure 50% of California's electricity will come from renewable sources by 2030. It will also require a 50% increase in energy efficiency in buildings by that year.

That fits in well with the findings of a new Greenpeace report which says 100% renewable energy for all is achievable by 2050. The Energy [R]evolution 2015 report outlines a plan for achieving this by phasing out coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy and how such a transition could be funded.

Even the CEO of Shell is picturing a bright solar future but says fossil fuels are going to stay part of the mix of decades. "I have no hesitation to predict of course in years to come solar will be the dominant backbone of our energy system, certainly of the electricity system."

With these predictions of a solar boom how will things change? The concept of the 'solar suburb' includes solar panels on every roof, an electric vehicle in every garage, ultra efficient home batteries to store excess energy and the easy transfer of electricity among house, car and grid.

In Japan solar farms are being developed near the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. To promote solar power generation, while trying to keep farmland intact, solar panels are positioned so that crops can grow beneath them. In India there are plans to put solar panels atop 500 trains to power lighting, fans and air conditioning.

As of this month more than one million all-electric vehicles and plug in hybrids have been sold worldwide. Most of the sales have occurred since late 2010 in the US, China, Japan and northern Europe. Former NZ Prime Minister Jim Bolger says our government should set an example by buying electric cars for its fleet. Apple is speeding up work on a project that could lead to the company building its own electric car. According to sources Apple has committed employees and resources to get the car ready for an unveiling in 2019.

VW has been rocked by revelations that it rigged US emissions tests for about 500,000 of its diesel cars. It turns out those cars have been causing far more pollution than VW claimed. Guardian columnist George Monbiot says the air that should have been filtered by VW's engines has been filtered by our lungs instead. In the US, 200,000 deaths a year are attributed to air pollution. The company faces fines of billions of dollars and Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn has resigned following a massive public backlash.