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Unfair power prices and a ludicrous coal video

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

Northlanders say a proposal to increase annual power charges by nearly $300 is unfair and favours large consumers and cities at the expense of poor and remote areas. The proposal is being considered by the Electricity Authority. All the submissions it received from Northland residents were against the plan. "Electricity is a national asset for all New Zealand and pricing should be fair and equitable to all regardless of location " says Whangarei resident Ross Clark.

Stuff reports that vulnerable households are cutting down on using their heaters rather than risk using up their prepaid power, prompting health concerns. There are about 40,000 households using prepaid power meters. In a recent survery, just over half of those who responded said prepaying encouraged them to cut back on heating. 

Last week Green MP Gareth Hughes was in Nelson, solarcity's hometown, promoting a bill to secure the fair buy-back prices for people who are producing excess renewable energy for their homes and businesses. He received support from our CEO, Andrew Booth, and Absolute Energy owner Paul Brockie. 

The Smart Grid Forum, which was established last year to help advance smart electricity development, says New Zealand is well positioned to adapt to new, smart technology that will help benefit consumers. It has just released its first year-end report.

Auckland University will receive $2.39 million in government funding for research into smart technologies that are able to take advantage of renewable energy sources without compromising the integrity of the existing grid.

Some areas of the oil rich Middle East are starting to diversify into solar energy. Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, also has an abundance of sunshine. Veteran oil minister al-Naimi has said the kingdom plans to become a "global power in solar" which is "more economic than fossil fuels". Next week Dubai will host the Global Solar Leaders' Summit. The National reports on five trends that are setting the stage for an explosion in solar power in the region. They include solar financing which it says will revolutionise the market, much like it did in North America. 

Japan has been developing solar for a while. The Asahi newspaper reports that over this summer solar generation contributed the equivalent of more than 10 nuclear reactors. In the Netherlands solar sales have increased up to 100% in the first half of 2015 compared to 2014.

New research by the Australian UBS investment bank says solar could account for a quarter of the world's installed power generation capacity by 2050 and that it could eventually replace nuclear power and coal as the default energy source of the future. Another Australian study shows energy efficiency and rooftop solar have reduced the demand for grid power since 2009. Meanwhile the National Australia Bank (owner of the BNZ) says it will not back a massive coal mine proposed for North Queensland citing environmental, social and governance risks.

The Australian mining industry thinks coals is getting a bad rap so has released a video which claims the little black rock creates "light and jobs" and "can now reduce its emissions by up to 40%". Unsurprisingly, green groups have labelled the advert as "ludicrous".