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Survey shows bright future for NZ solar, clean energy tipped for big growth

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

Pulse Energy’s latest Great New Zealand Energy Survey indicates people are keen to adopt new energy technologies, including electric vehicles and solar panels. Nearly half of the 21,131 respondents expect to use solar sometime in the future – about 68 per cent said they would use solar if the panels were free and their future energy price stayed the same as now, reports Energy News (Paywall). 

A new report finds the potential of solar power has historically been underestimated. It says the world’s electricity systems will be transformed from relying on consistent “baseload” coal to variable solar by 2050. China’s increasing solar programme is driving global installation forecasts to be revised upwards with one market research company predicting solar growth of 14% this year. 

Royal Dutch Shell is investigating a solar power project in an Australian region better known for its fossil fuels, particularly coal, reports Business Live.

Sweden recently announced that tax for renewable energy power generators over 255 kW would be reduced by 98%. With that in mind, architects and developers in the Scandinavian nation are coming up with more and more innovative ways to harness the power of the sun. Researchers at the University of Exeter have designed glass construction blocks that integrate solar technology. Called Solar Squared the blocks let in light, generate electricity and improve thermal insulation.

Renewables and fossil fuels

New Zealand’s renewable energy sector is forecast to grow 8.6% this current financial year. The sector is ranked second for growth by market researchers at IBISWorld. The Tiwai Point aluminium smelter looks likely to stay open, says its electricity supplier, Meridian Energy.

Australia’s renewable energy sector is within striking distance of matching national household power consumption, cranking out enough electricity to run 70% of homes last financial year, new figures show. The biggest single source of renewable power remained hydro-electricity (40%), followed by wind (31%) and rooftop solar (18%). 

A US power provider, Duke Energy, has shelved plans to build a nuclear plant and instead intends to invest $6 billion in solar panels, grid-tied batteries, grid modernization projects, and electric vehicle charging areas. In another sign that the petroleum era is drawing to a close, Denmark is selling off its last oil company with barely a peep, reports Bloomberg. The UK government is offering £22m of funding for projects to develop low-carbon, waste-based fuels for planes and trucks.

Climate change

From the US to India and China, human impact on the climate is likely to have made droughts and storms more severe – and the trend is only set to continue, reports the Guardian. More than a third of Bangladesh and Nepal, and large areas of India have been flooded, and the situation is expected to worsen as monsoon season continues through the end of September.

By the time the rain stops, Hurricane Harvey will have dumped about 1 million gallons of water for every man, woman and child in southeastern Texas, a soggy, record-breaking glimpse of the wet and wild future that global warming could bring, scientists say. You can't attribute Hurricane Harvey solely to climate change, but that doesn't mean the two topics aren't linked, writes Mike Pearl for Vice. And George Monbiot in the Guardian says that though the links are clear and obvious, most reports on Hurricane Harvey have made no mention of the human contribution to it. Here looks at the reasons why.

The environment, already a hot topic in this election, will be the greatest policy challenge for the next government, writes Rod Oram for Newsroom. Consumer NZ has just released it's 2017 election survey and it's asked political parties what they'll be doing to help people take action on climate change. There are better solutions to climate change than a tax, says Richard MacManus in Stuff. In particular, three technologies: electric vehicles, solar energy, and alternatives to farmed food. Each of these solutions has been making rapid progress in recent years. They just need more of a push from the government. 

Transport

Entrepreneur Elon Musk has released mind-boggling footage of revolutionary transport tipped to transform the world. Trials of the Hyperloop, which propels pods at high speed through a tube, will start in Nevada this year. Public health and transport experts are making a plea for Wellington officials to invest in light rail, instead of more roads and tunnels.

US company Cummins has entered the race for clean freight transport, revealing an all-electric semi designed for city use, reports Autoblog. Nissan’s Leaf, which sent a jolt through the market with its 100-mile range back in 2010, has been losing ground to longer-range rivals, especially Tesla. That could change with a souped-up Leaf to be released next week, reports Bloomberg.