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Clean solar future - why it pays to get there first

There are high hopes that a global agreement on tackling climate change will be reached during the two-week UN Climate Conference which starts in Paris on Sunday. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming below 2°C is critical to the future of life on Earth. 

The science is now unequivocal and it is clear that we will have to put a complete stop to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Our nation cannot afford to sit back and try and save the environment and our children’s future from the sofa. New Zealand needs to move quickly to zero emissions in line with the G7 nations which have rightly acknowledged that this has to be our common objective.

Is a zero emissions target even practical and can it be done without closing down our economy? The answer to both questions is a strong, ‘yes’. Indeed, business leaders from around the world, including Richard Branson, India’s Ratan Tata, and Paul Polman of Unilever, have called on political leaders to adopt a zero emissions goal in Paris. 

If countries and companies plan ahead and invest in clean energy now, not only can they help stop climate change, they can actually get energy costs down for consumers. Early action brings long-lasting benefits by creating cuts in future electricity bills, as witnessed here in NZ with our solarZero plan, with the added bonus of drastically reducing carbon pollution.

Scientists say two thirds of the world’s fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if there is to be any chance of keeping global warming under 2°C. As all the energy stored in Earth's reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas is matched by the energy from just 20 days of sunshine switching to solar is a smart option. Last week a study came out showing how 139 countries could be running 100% on renewable energy by 2050.

So how can it be done in the NZ? It’s about a 100% clean energy supply. It’s about making our energy system more efficient and productive. It’s about the right infrastructure.  Already cities and companies are adopting the zero emissions goal. Yet New Zealand, which is closer to the 100% target than nearly every other OECD nation, is at the back of the pack when it comes to taking action. The right step now would be for our nation to become the first major country to enshrine net zero emissions into law.

As about 80% of our electricity already comes from renewable sources, we could decarbonise our electricity system reasonably quickly with a mix of hydro, geothermal, wind and solar.

If 5% of households in New Zealand installed solar to meet their daytime energy needs our carbon emissions would decrease by 56,400 cubic tonnes. Solar energy could also be used to power electric vehicles which would help cut our transport C02 emissions dramatically.

Kiwis love the idea of going solar and our solarZero plan is making it simple and affordable. Homeowners can now switch to solar with little, or no upfront costs and lock in a fixed rate for clean solar energy at a rate lower than the average price of power today.

It is critical that our nation does not get left behind at this important moment in time and that together we make the switch to solar. Solar is good for the wallet and great for the planet.