Heat on to tackle climate change, bright future for solar

Global temperature anomaly map for March 2016, with an average of +1.29oC above the 20th century average. Credit: NASA GISS

We're all about saving you energy and have rounded up the latest solar and energy news so you don't have to.

In the week that NZ and about 170 countries are signing the Paris climate agreement, two important climate change related reports have been released. The first, from the Morgan Foundation, shows that New Zealand was by far the biggest buyer of fraudulent foreign carbon credits from the Ukraine. Now the Government is handing over those fraudulent credits to meet our international emissions reduction targets.The second report, published by the Royal Society of New Zealand, has found that climate change, already underway, will almost certainly accelerate this century unless drastic action is taken to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases. Changes would include a sea level rise of at least 30cm and possibly as much as one metre this century, while the severity of both floods and droughts will increase. In the midst of the two reports scientists called for meaningful, drastic action to mitigate climate change. 

Countries, regions, cities and businesses are taking action to move the world in the right direction toward a low-carbon, climate resilient future. With global leaders in New York to sign the Paris climate agreement, now is a good time to reflect on the changing landscape of the global response to climate change. New Zealand's target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 11 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 remains conditional on aspects of the Paris deal that have yet to be nailed down.

Pure Advantage profiled our CEO Andy Booth. He says solar energy is rapidly becoming the cheapest unsubsidised form of energy in the world, with the potential to create jobs and economic growth for Kiwis while providing a cheaper, more stable and more secure energy system. 

A number of power companies have put up their charges this month including Genesis Energy, Mercury Energy and part of the Contact Energy network. The Electricity Authority says now is a good time for customers to check they’re on the best plan for their household. Advisory firm Energy Link says the average amount of electricity used by Wellington homes has dropped by 8% for a year compared to 2006 and predicts further falls. It says cuts are being made because of better insulation, better appliances, and people wanting to use less power because prices are going up. A proposal for an open-cast coal mine near Westport is dependent on DOC granting access to 12 hectares of a conservation area. DOC asked for public submissions and received 71 in favour and 11 against.

Last month was the hottest March in 137 years of record keeping. It's the 11th consecutive month to set a new record, and it puts 2016 on course to set a third straight annual record. The Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral structure on Earth, is suffering from what may be its worst bleaching event ever recorded. But according to new research, future bleaching events could be even worse and may disable a natural protection mechanism of the reef's corals - leaving them more defenceless against warmer seas. A new study has concluded that the planet’s reliance upon burning fossil fuels for energy could be phased out in a decade.

Earlier this month The Future of Energy conference, held in New York, included some fascinating insights into how quickly the transition to solar is happening including that global off-grid solar will reach 100 million households by 2020. To see how bright the future of solar energy is, look to the developing world. India has surpassed its solar energy target for 2015-16 more than one and a half times, commissioning 3018 MW during the year against the 2000 MW it had set itself. The largest PV installation in Ghana has just been connected to the nation’s grid.

Rooftop panels could supply 40% of the US’s power with open spaces such as parking lots offering further potential. France has lifted its solar target three-fold by 2023, as it aims for 40% renewables. A project to install 90,000 solar panels over 19 rooftops has been given the go ahead in Dubai. A Melbourne suburb will be taken completely off grid and powered only with rooftop solar and battery storage, in a first-of-its kind 12-month trial in Australia. A solar-powered plane, called Solar Impulse 2, is getting ready to continue its flight around the world again after nine months on the ground.

Infratil's NZ Bus unit has signed a US$30 million deal with US-based Wrightspeed to enable it to transition its buses to electric technology. Fast electric vehicle charging stations have been installed in the Canterbury towns of Waimate and Timaru. They were opened in time for the arrival of the Charge Net NZ Leading The Charge road trip, which is travelling from Cape Reinga to Bluff to highlight the benefits of electric vehicles. Dutch politicians have voted through a motion calling on the country to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars starting in 2025. Electric vehicle and hybrid vehicle registrations in Norway during March 2016 made up around 60% of total automotive registrations in the country during the month.

A group of researchers and industry bodies have called on the Australian government to help support and incentivise electric vehicles - a move that they say could lower car emissions by up to 47 percent. A new project from the universities of Sheffield and Southampton will investigate novel energy storage options that would enable trains to run more cheaply by using power from electric cars parked at train stations instead of buying expensively from the grid. Tesla has been in the news a lot recently with the release of its Model 3 which has clocked up close to 400,000 orders. Now check out this spoof video featuring the Mercedes AA Class which is powered by 9,648 AA batteries.