High power prices hit hard over winter, exciting times for solar and batteries

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

Power Prices

High power prices are stopping a third of New Zealand households from using their heaters as often as they would like to and 62% are worried about their power bills, according to a survey by Consumer NZ. On average, New Zealanders could have made an annual saving of $175 on power bills if they switched to the cheapest deal in their area last year, according to new data from the Electricity Authority (EA). If all Kiwis changed power companies to the cheapest one available to them, they could have saved a combined $307 million in 2015. When commenting on NZ power prices Carl Hansen, the EA’s Chief Executive, said; "The prices of battery technology and solar panels are falling rapidly which will give savvy consumers a whole range of different options to consider. It's exciting times."

The EA has rejected the call from minnow power retailer Electric Kiwi for an investigation into the actions of Meridian Energy on June 2 when wholesale electricity prices spiked to more than $4,000 per megawatt hour. However, it will conduct a 'market performance review' to "consider the performance of the electricity market and the conduct of all participants”.

Entrust (formerly Auckland Energy Consumer Trust) is running an online campaign against a proposal by the EA to hike electricity transmission prices for Aucklanders by $78 million. This week it released a video, made in collaboration with Waiheke Island’s Hip Op-eration crew, to help explain the impact of the proposal which is says would have an adverse impact on Aucklanders. Electricity Authority proposal on Aucklanders.

Solar and battery storage

Malcolm McCulloch, a renewable energy expert from the UK, tells RNZ that the rising uptake of solar is indicative of the massive change in the current energy model. He also says domestic scale energy storage batteries will be a game changer. 

UK solar has continued to break domestic records after generation reached a new peak of delivering almost a quarter of electricity demand last month. The World Bank has signed an agreement with the Indian-led International Solar Alliance to boost solar energy in developing countries by mobilising US$1 trillion in investments by 2030. The alliance was launched by India and France at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris last November and includes about 120 countries that support the promotion of solar energy. In addition, the bank plans to provide more than US$1 billion to support India's initiatives to expand solar power generation within its own country.

The Juno spacecraft that just entered orbit around Jupiter, passed another milestone last January when it became the furthest-flung spacecraft ever to use solar power. That achievement was made possible by the spacecraft’s large (60-square-meter) solar panels containing nearly 19,000 advanced solar cells. 

Renewables and fossil fuels

Working out how to use some of NZ’s stores of renewable energy to fuel our transport sector is being described as our next big challenge, reports Stuff. When all sources of energy are considered, just 40 per cent comes from renewable sources.

James Ehrlich, the founder of Californian-based company ReGen Villages, talks to RNZ about building sustainable integrated neighbourhoods that include growing your own food, generating your own energy, managing waste locally, and recycling water. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is vowing that the country will produce a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2027. She says a half-billion solar panels will be installed by 2020 and $60 billion will go to states and cities to develop more climate-friendly infrastructure, such as public transportation and energy-efficient buildings. 


A Chinese company has unveiled prototypes of four solar-powered vehicles and says production could start around 2020. The four vehicles are fitted with solar panels on the roof tops and on the bonnets and can also be charged at electric vehicle charging stations. On solar power alone their range is about 80 kilometre on a six-hour charge in the sun. Buyers of fully electric cars in Germany now receive a purchase premium of 4,000 euros, with the carmakers and the government footing the bill equally. The government's official aim is to have one million electric vehicles on the roads by 2020. The North American plug-on electric vehicle market expected to grow by around 62 percent year over year in 2016, nearing 200,000 sales.

A prototype electric-powered Rolls Royce displays radically different styling from any current Rolls - or virtually any other current production car. The Globe and Mail is running a series of stories on new vehicle concepts. This week it looks at an electric train, the Sebrid which passengers would drive onto as it was travelling.

Climate change

Professors Tim Naish and James Renwick of Victoria University, are heading out on the road this month on a nationwide speaking tour about climate change. The share 10 facts people might not know about climate change in the Herald. Ministry for the Environment projections for the effects of climate change on New Zealand show hotter and drier periods are expected in coming decades, with more intense drought and a bigger demand on water resources. The government must be prepared for people demanding compensation as sea level rises make some homes uninsurable, says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright. The government has cut the amount it intends to spend on advice for reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions, reports RNZ.

The summer sea ice cover over the Arctic raced towards oblivion in June, crashing through previous records to reach a new all-time low, reports the Guardian. That means a vast expanse of ice – an area about twice the size of Texas – has vanished over the past 30 years, and the rate of that retreat has accelerated.

Two US artists are in Dunedin for a month-long programme to help develop ideas to tackle climate change by mixing art, science and technology. A US architectural firm has come up with a design for a house that can respond to predicted environmental changes. The design team has proposed a structure that will cope with the ebb and flow of the tides. It also features an aerodynamic spherical roof to withstand great winds and provide ample surface area for integrated electricity-generating photovoltaics.