Massive solar growth in 2015, Aussies keen to get off the grid

Solar PV growth - REN21 global status report 2015

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


Our CEO, Andrew Booth, spoke to RNZ about the flaws in the recent Concept Consulting report that says electric vehicles will do more to combat climate change than solar panels. That’s no surprise as CO2 emissions from the transport sector are more than double from electricity generation. He says we need to be combining solar, battery and electric vehicle technologies to help NZ reduce its carbon emissions as quickly as possible. The solar tax introduced by Hawke's Bay electricity company Unison in April has come under fire again, this time at a packed public meeting in Napier.

A report by the Australia Institute charts the progress of battery storage technology in Australia, as falling costs combine with increasing consumer dissatisfaction to set the stage for a major disruption of the energy status quo. It finds one in four Australians would use solar and battery storage to quit the electricity grid.

Senegal is building the largest solar power plant in West Africa and it’s expected to start production early next year. Senegal has about nine months of uninterrupted sunshine every year, a perfect environment for solar technologies. Reuters reports discontent about widespread power outages caused massive protests in the country, forcing the government to reevaluate the way it brings energy to its people. The world’s largest solar power plant installed on the rooftop of a shopping mall has just been switched on in the Philippines. In the last couple of years, the transportation industry in India has been adopting renewable energy in a big way. From airlines to railways, solar has become a preferred option. Now the waterways are taking to it as well. 

Renewables and fossil fuels

An upsurge in new wind, solar and hydro plants and capacity saw renewable energy smash global records last year, according to the REN21 global status report. Clean energy investment increased to $286bn, with solar energy accounting for 56% of the total and wind power for 38%. Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) says it is in discussions with companies to use solar energy to extract oil as the Opec member country look for alternative methods to maximise production at a cheaper price. Oil prices briefly hit $50 a barrel at the end of last week for the first time in seven months.

Construction of an off-the-grid eco village featuring 100 homes is about to start in The Netherlands. Innovative technologies will include the design and construction of energy-positive homes, renewable energy, energy storage, doorstep high-yield food production, vertical farming with aquaponics and aeroponics, water management and waste-to-resource systems.

Power prices

The Electricity Authority is holding workshops with interested parties, in four centres this month, to discuss its proposal for changing grid pricing. Submissions to the Transmission Pricing Methodology proposal close on July 26. The owners of the Tiwai aluminium smelter have warned it is "facing even tougher conditions in 2016" than last year. New Zealand Aluminium Smelters will decide by the end of July whether to sign a new electricity contract with Meridian Energy.

Climate change

US government researchers say the sharp spike in Alaska’s wildfires, where more than 5 million acres burned last year, are destroying a main buffer against climate change: the carbon-rich boreal forests, tundra and permafrost that have served as an enormous carbon sink.

Polluters won't be getting a half-price deal on the cost of their greenhouse gas emissions any longer. A bill to get rid of the two-for-one measure in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has passed its third and final reading in Parliament. Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett says removing a carbon credit subsidy for businesses could cost households between $30 and $40 a year. She has urged businesses to think twice about passing on the costs of their climate change obligations in the form of higher petrol and power bills.

An historic Antarctica New Zealand site is likely to be submerged this summer due to climate changes causing lake levels to rise in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. All references to climate change's impact on World Heritage sites in Australia were removed from a United Nations report following a request from the country’s Department of Environment. A statement from the department said the report could have had an impact on tourism to Australia. Meanwhile, the majority of coral is now dead on many reefs in the central section of the Great Barrier Reef in the worst mass bleaching event to hit the world heritage site. The conditions that led to the bleaching event were estimated to have been virtually impossible if it were not for the greenhouse gases humans have released into the atmosphere.

A dozen New York lawmakers have introduced a bill to eliminate New York’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A huge amount of air conditioning will be installed globally in coming years, not just for comfort but also as a health necessity. That could have big implications for climate change. Less Meat Less Heat is a campaign to help tackle climate change by getting us to eat a greener diet. Next month it will launch a free app called the Climatarian Challenge that is designed to help users join the dots between what they choose to eat and its contribution to climate change.


Power companies attempting to fend off solar power are at risk of following the horse and cart into oblivion, says NZ commentator Mike Williams. We could, and should, work to reinstate our reputation by having a policy target of 100 per cent renewable electricity in the next decade and 100 per cent renewable energy within 50 years, writes retired pathologist Ian Sutherland in the Wanganui Chronicle. Our decades of indulgence have cost the planet and nature just dropped off the bill. Dave Hansford, writing in New Zealand Geographic, asks who’s going to pay? The NZ Herald’s business editor at large, Liam Dann, says that if the rally in oil prices continues it has the potential to dramatically and quite rapidly change the dynamic of the global economy.

Electric vehicles

Petrol shortages, due to industrial strikes, have spiked interest in electric cars in France, reports CNN.
Volkswagen is reportedly considering building its own battery factory as part of a large commitment to electric cars.The company is targeting sales of 1 million electric cars within 10 years. A 1,600 km rally to promote zero emissions vehicles starts in Germany next week. It is attracting entrants from around the world, including Naveen Rabelli who is currently driving is solar-powered electric tuk tuk to the event all the way from India - an 8,000 km trip. A popular Welsh entertainer and her band have recorded their latest song entirely in a fleet of electric cars to highlight their quiet, relaxing ride.