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Solar and battery prices dropping, Kiwis miss out on cheaper power

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

Solar, batteries and wind generation are getting cheaper every year and will come to supplant fossil fuels, says futurist and tech pioneer Ramez Naam who will speak at the SingularityU summit in Christchurch on November 14-16.

There are predictions that solar plus storage could be cheaper than grid power in Australia by next year. New projects will triple large-scale solar in Australia by 2020. However, the agency that has just given out $92 million in grants to help this growth faces an uncertain future. The first solar power plant in Uganda will start feeding the country’s electricity grid later this month.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Researchers have created an interactive web tool to estimate the amount of energy that could be generated by wind or solar farms at any location. The tool, called Renewables.ninja, aims to make the task of predicting renewable output easier for both academics and industry.

Costa Rica ran on 100 percent renewable energy for 76 straight days between June and August this year. Hydropower provided around 80 percent of the country’s power with the remaining 20 percent from geothermal, wind and solar.

The City of Sydney council is set to divest from fossil fuels this year, regardless of the outcome of the election on Saturday, after a two-year campaign by members of the anti-fossil fuel group 350.org. One of the world's largest investment funds is dumping its shares in Duke Energy Corp. because it sees too much risk in what it called the largest U.S. electric company's history of environmental damage.

Power prices

New Zealand households have missed out on $1.5 billion in savings over the past five years because they did not switch to the cheapest power provider available, according to the Electricity Authority.

Climate change

The United States and China, the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have announced they will formally ratify the Paris climate change agreement in a move campaigners immediately hailed as a significant advance in the battle against global warming. It's a step that New Zealand hasn't taken yet, and the moves will put more pressure on our Government to follow suit, reports Newshub. Herald columnist Brian Fallow questions whether countries, particular with US, will be able to live up to their climate commitments. He also says NZ appears to be sitting on the sidelines.

The soaring temperature of the oceans is the “greatest hidden challenge of our generation” that is altering the make-up of marine species, shrinking fishing areas and starting to spread disease to humans, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of ocean warming, reports the Guardian

The most destructive categories of tropical storms to strike the heavily populated regions of east Asia are becoming more intense and increasing as much as four-fold in frequency because of climate change, according to new research by US-based scientists. Man-made climate change about doubled the chances for the type of heavy downpours that caused devastating Louisiana floods last month, according to a new US federal study.

The New Zealand Government is giving too many resources to renewable energy plans in the Pacific at the expense of critical projects to support Pacific Island nations prepare for the effects of climate change, according to a new report released by Oxfam.

California is on track to hit its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Now its considering an additional 40% cut in emissions by 2030.

Transport

International Drive Electric Week starts Sept 10. Here are the events happening in New Zealand. Electric rubbish trucks will be rolled out in New Zealand later this year in a trial by Waste Management which also generates power from landfill gas.

The largest electric vehicle fast-charging station in the world has opened in Norway and can charge 28 electric vehicles simultaneously. Uber is introducing 50 fully electric cars to its fleet in London this month and plans to introduce hundreds more to the UK next year. German carmaker Daimler plans to roll out at least six, and possibly as many as nine, electric car models as part of its push to compete with Tesla and Volkswagen's Audi, reports Reuters.

The first official trial of autonomous driving vehicles will be run by Volvo on a stretch of public road in Tauranga later this year.