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Eight reasons solar will help shape a stronger energy future

Solar is a smart new way to generate electricity, right where it’s needed, and it’s turning the current centralised generating model upside down. Tony Seba, from Stanford University, lectures on this subject around the world. He predicts the combination of solar, battery and electric vehicle technology is creating change that will be as rapid and as unforeseen as the switch from horse-drawn carriages to cars in the early 20th century.

Here are the top eight reasons why solar is going to help shape a stronger energy future for New Zealand by providing cleaner, more affordable power for our homes, businesses and vehicles while making the electricity network more robust.

1. By combining solar energy with other renewable energies we can stop burning fossil fuels to generate energy.

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The Paris climate agreement has committed governments to replacing fossil fuels almost entirely by clean energy in the second half of this century. When you look at New Zealand’s total energy profile - electricity, transport and industrial processes to produce heat - about 60% is generated by burning oil, coal and gas. Solar, along with hydro and wind power generation, is going to be an important part of New Zealand’s energy mix as we shift away from this reliance on fossil fuels.

Currently about 80% of our electricity is generated from renewable sources. We are committed to working alongside the energy industry and our communities to drive it up to 100% as fast as possible. This will provide clean energy to our homes and businesses. It will also help the transport sector to cut back on its CO2 emissions as the national fleet switches from being powered on dirty petrol and diesel to clean electricity.

2. Solar and electric vehicles are a dream partnership

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The switch to electric vehicles is going to create a win for all of us. Electric vehicles are cheaper and cleaner to run compared to vehicles powered on fossil fuels which are responsible for more than 40% of New Zealand’s CO2 emissions. The government has introduced incentives to boost electric vehicle numbers to about 64,000 by 2021. Of course, to get the full carbon-saving benefits of electric vehicles they need to be powered on electricity generated from renewable sources. We do not want the expansion of electric cars to be used as justification to keep burning fossil fuels in New Zealand, or to be used as a reason for increasing power prices (power prices should not be benchmarked against oil prices).

Solar is a logical option as it is 100% renewable and allows consumers to have full control over the costs to power their car. Solar power can be used to charge a vehicle directly, or it can be stored in a home battery so vehicle charging can happen overnight. It is also important to note that electric vehicles are not a magic bullet for achieving New Zealand’s climate change commitments as it will take 20+ years to transition New Zealand’s fleet to fossil fuels. Solar is available and affordable now.

3. For the first time customers will know where their power is generated

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While some companies promote that they only generate electricity from renewable sources, once it enters the grid, that electricity is mixed with power generated by burning coal and gas. You have no way of knowing how green your power is, unless you generate it yourself. Around 20% of New Zealand’s generation comes from burning fossil fuels - mainly at the Huntly Power Station.

Solar allows you to take back control of your energy bills and to send a clear message that we want a smarter, cleaner way to power our communities. We can make a difference one rooftop at a time.

4. Solar can power your home day and night

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By adding battery storage you are no longer restricted to having solar power only during daylight hours. Now you can store excess solar power generated during the day so it can be used long after the sun has gone down. Plus, with a Panasonic solar battery you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you have back-up emergency power for a few critical devices if the grid goes down. Increasing battery storage for electricity is going to lower the levels of peak demand on the grid. Transpower believes once battery storage is fully developed, daily demand will flatten across each day and seasonal profiles will be reshaped.

5. Utilising a combination of renewable energies supports the nation, whatever the season.

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New Zealand’s combined renewable energy sources can generate power all year round. In fact, solar still works well in winter. We correctly size our systems so it is easy to use all the solar generated with minimal export to the grid. The beauty of renewable energy is that each type of generation experiences natural peaks at different times of year;

  • Solar: summer /spring/autumn 
  • Wind: autumn/winter/spring
  • Hydro: winter/spring

As New Zealand’s electricity system is hydro-based we have a much larger margin, or excess, of peak generation capacity than many other power systems. Solar and hydro work well together with hydro acting as a large battery to balance demand. This will help us transition to 100% renewable electricity.

6. All consumers will benefit from a grid that includes solar

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By investing in clean, distributed energy resources, consumers can make the grid more efficient and contribute to a cleaner environment, while gaining greater control over their energy bills. The grid is sized for the highest demand. By introducing new technologies, like solar and batteries, that demand point will come down, as will the cost of maintaining the grid. Rooftop solar generates power right where it is needed.

Local generation with batteries connected to the grid cuts demand, reducing the requirement for additional local lines infrastructure and lowering the costs of distribution for all. This will help make the grid more robust. As is already happening overseas, lines companies will be able to diversify and invest in battery technology that can store power generated and used locally. The majority of solar households will remain grid-tied and continue to pay fixed lines charges for the night time and early morning power they use.

7. Solar will improve power affordability for everyone

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solarZero now delivers power at prices which, in some parts of New Zealand, are up to 35% less than retail energy prices. As a result solar is putting a natural cap on the price we pay for power. Over the past 20 years the price of grid power has gone up by more than 150%. Solar now gives consumers an affordable alternative to beat those rising prices and take back control of their energy bills. In California it has been estimated that rooftop solar would deliver net societal benefits of more than $1.4bn annually – for solar and non-solar customers alike.

8. Solar is now a smart, affordable option

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Kiwis love the idea of going solar but previously have been put off by the costs of up to $17,000 to buy panels for the average home. solarcity has changed the game. Qualify for our solarZero energy service and you can buy clean, affordable solar energy, generated on your roof by panels that we own and manage for you. You simply pay a low, fixed monthly fee for smart services delivering solar power and improved energy efficiency. The price you pay is locked down at today’s rates, for the next 20 years, which can save you thousands over the long term. And, with our solarZero+ service, you can add battery storage to get cleaner, more affordable power day and night.