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Solar shaping NZ’s energy future, global growth in renewable electricity

Fuel shares in world electricity production in 2014. Graphic: International Energy Agency 

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 is a smart new way to generate electricity, right where it’s needed, and it’s turning the current centralised generating model upside down. See our blog which summarises the eight reasons why solar will shape a stronger energy future for NZ. The combination of energy efficiency and solar power is making homes increasingly desirable to buyers, reports the NZ Herald.

Research shows 2016 is set to be another record year for solar with growth tipped to exceed 40%. China added more than 20 GW in solar PV generation capacity during the first half of this year, a year-over-year increase of 300 percent. South Australia will establish a ‘virtual power plant’ by installing 1,000 centrally controlled batteries in homes and businesses with a combined 5-7 MWh storage capacity. 

A team of researchers in the US has developed a solar cell that uses the power of the sun to mimic photosynthesis and convert carbon dioxide into a solid fuel.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Figures, just released by the International Energy Agency, show renewables are now the second largest source of global electricity generation, accounting for 22.3% of world generation in 2014. Transpower says that the percentage of renewable generation being used on the NZ power system has been 90% or higher for each month since February this year.

A coal station that was the biggest in Britian, is now powered mainly by wood pellets, reports Renewable Energy World. About 1.5m tonnes of oil are spilled in Russia each year. That’s more than twice the amount released by the record-breaking Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, reports the Guardian. Moving coal workers from the declining US coal industry into the solar sector would cost each coal company less than a year’s pay for the CEO, a new study reveals.

Power prices

Households churned through $4 million of extra power over the weekend as the polar blast sent temperatures plummeting across the country. A huge test of the Electricity Authority's credibility as a regulator is shaping over the next few months as it reforms the Transmission Pricing Methodolgy, writes Pattrick Smellie for Stuff.

Climate change

Leading climate scientists have warned that the Earth is perilously close to breaking through a 1.5C upper limit for global warming, only eight months after the target was set at the Paris climate conference. New Zealand is a leading climate researcher but, when it comes to doing something about climate change, we lag behind other countries, says Professor James Renwick in The Press.

The warming climate is causing issues in the Southern Alps. Mount Cook village faces an increasing risk from avalanches and the dwindling southern glaciers are causing safety hazards, reports Stuff.

Electric vehicles

Electric car sales in the US jumped 48% last month. Meanwhile, the US Department of Energy thinks it can solve two of the largest obstacles standing in the way of the electric car. It is funding research to more than double the distance an electric car can travel on a single charge and is looking into ways to make 10-minute car charging possible. 

Public electric vehicle (EV) charge points will outnumber petrol stations in the UK by the end of the decade, marking a potential tipping point in the adoption of zero emission vehicles, reports the Guardian. Wellington ecosanctuary Zealandia has installed charging stations for electric vehicles and bikes.

Cleantech

Five green technology ideas that could transform the aviation industry have been selected by NASA. The ideas, which include wings that shape-shift during flight, could change the aviation industry by minimising aircraft fuel use and emissions. Smart city projects in Florida and Colorado, in the US, aim to be laboratories for sustainable city planning.