Global temperatures rise, NZ power prices do the same

Parts of the Arctic were 16℃ warmer than normal in February. Bernhard Staehli / shutterstock

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February didn’t just break climate change records – it obliterated them. Regions of the Arctic were were more than 16C warmer than normal and the surface of the Earth north of the equator was 2C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures. This was meant to be a line that must not be crossed.

Three major NZ power companies are putting up their prices as cooler evenings kick in. Power prices at Genesis Energy, Mercury Energy and on part of the Contact Energy network will go up from April 1. Power prices for West Coast homeowners will rise in September. The Electricity Authority is urging households to check they are getting the best deal on their power, with the expensive winter months approaching.

The third annual New Zealand energy issues map has been released by The World Energy Council. The BusinessNZ Energy Council says it sends a clear signal to both business leaders and policy-makers to keep up with unfolding technological developments and the rise of the pro-sumer in order to allow new business models to emerge, compete, and deliver competitive prices.

World-leading environmentalist Bill McKibben is urging New Zealanders to take part in a Greenpeace-organised demonstration of peaceful civil disobedience at the annual petroleum conference at SkyCity in Auckland on March 21. You can view his video message here.

Big industrial emitters of greenhouse gases will lose their right under the NZ emissions trading scheme to offset only half of their emissions. "It is abundantly clear that if the ETS is going to work, carbon must cost more than it does right now,” says Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett.

Falling coal use in China and the US and a worldwide shift towards renewable energy have kept greenhouse gas emissions level for a second year running, says one of the world’s leading energy analysts. New climate research has warned that the individual energy needs of a growing population could push global warming to dangerous levels within just four years, highlighting the need to fast-track the global shift to cleaner sources of energy like renewables. 

If the global temperature keeps rising the resulting loss of an Antarctic ice sheet could cause a devastating rise in the sea level, a new study warns. US coastal areas occupied by more than 13 million people will be at risk of being completely swamped by the sea under a worst-case climate change scenario, new research predicts. Since 1970 only 11 category 5 cyclones have been recorded south of the equator; two of these happened in the last 12 months. While scientists are unsure of the connection between climate change and the overall number of cyclones, most agree that climate change is leading to a higher number of severe tropical cyclones.

India's massive bet on solar power is paying off far earlier than anticipated. The price of solar power has plummeted in recent months to levels rivalling that of coal, positioning the renewable source as a viable mainstream option in a country where 300 million people live without electricity. Iran’s largest solar power plant has been successfully connected to the national grid. 

New US solar power installations this year are set to break all previous records by more than doubling what was installed last year with 16 billion new watts of photovoltaic (PV) capacity and the US energy storage market took off in 2015 with its best year of all time. “Energy storage is changing the paradigm on how we generate, distribute and use energy,” says Matt Roberts, executive director of the Energy Storage Association.

President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have committed to curbing methane emissions by reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sectors by at least 40 percent over the next decade from 2012 levels and the Obama administration has abandoned its plan for oil and gas drilling in Atlantic waters, after strong opposition from the Pentagon and coastal communities.

Norway's $830-billion sovereign wealth fund pulled out of 27 firms with links to coal last year as part of a policy to combat climate change, prompting campaigners to urge other big investors to follow suit. Fossil fuels are set to lose out as Japan continues its on-going power sector transformation, according to new research. China will not return to its era of pursuing economic growth at the expense of the environment despite its slowing economy, the country's environment minister said Friday. China is the world's largest coal user, but its coal consumption has fallen for the past two years, and it has become the world's leading investor in renewable energy. A Swedish power company has been unable to find a buyer willing to pay the price for its nearly worthless lignite division in Germany.

The imminent withdrawal of cement maker Holcim from Westport has prompted Bathurst Resources to suspend operations at its contentious Escarpment mine atop the Denniston plateau. Amid NZ coal mine closures, layoffs, Cindy Baxter from Coal Action Network Aotearoa, asks 'do we need two new mines'?

A visiting electric vehicle expert says New Zealand should offer tax incentives to kick-start their uptake here as the Government says it is working on measures that will be released soon. The roll-out out of plug-in vehicles here has been slow with just over 1000 of them on the roads among a light vehicle fleet of more than three million. There are calls for a common charging standard for electric vehicles. There are 142 charging stations for electric vehicles in New Zealand but they're designed to accommodate either Japanese or North American vehicles. Air New Zealand is transitioning more than 75 light vehicles in its ground fleet to electric, saving around 65,000 litres of fuel per year.

New technologies have emerged that allow windows to be converted to solar panels without interrupting their aesthetic appearance and a UK company has developed a portable solar system that rolls out like a carpet making it ideal for disaster relief and places without grid supply.