NZ's unfair power prices, 4 million solar panels from space

The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, in China, has grown to 4 million solar panels since 2013. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

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

A review of NZ’s energy policies released by the International Energy Agency confirms that household electricity prices have risen much faster than in other IEA countries and by 2014 were well above the IEA average while industrial prices were consistently below the average. It highlights just how unfairly Kiwi consumers are being treated by the big power companies compared to the rest of the world. We say NZ's high power prices are a national disgrace.
Proposals by the Electricity Authority to change the way the national grid is funded are nonsense and there should be a moratorium on the process until it's been clearly determined that an overhaul is even required, says Kim Campbell is chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

Solar and batteries

Solar PV has been developing significantly in NZ and will play a role in helping the nation reach, and even exceed, its target of 90% renewable electricity generation by 2025, says the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its in-depth review of NZ’s energy policies.

Newly released satellite imagery shows the growth of the world’s largest solar park. Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China has 4 million panels covering 25 square kilometres.

A "solar revolution" is coming to Africa, comparable in scale and importance to the rapid surge in mobile phone use on the continent two decades ago. Fast-dropping costs for solar power, combined with plenty of sun and a huge need for electricity on a continent where many are still without it, means solar has huge potential in Africa.

In 2014 the Californian city of Lancaster introduced a policy requiring solar to be installed on all new homes. Now its new “Zero Net Energy” policy requires that solar systems are sized to meet each home's energy needs. And in New York solar power has grown almost 800% over the last five years. 

New Zealand's first on-road solar powered electric vehicle charger opened to the public in Tauranga and will provide free power for the first year. Another solar powered EV charger is on private land in Wellington.

Almost 7000 railway stations in India will soon be fed with solar power if the plans announced in India’s latest union budget are implemented. And an Indian engineer and his solar-powered tuk-tuk have arrived in Britain at the end of a seven-month, 10,000-kilometre overland adventure – despite a last-minute mishap.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Renewable energy may have finally found its moment, writes Michael McDonald for Amid reports of solar power that is cheaper than any other energy source and massive investments in wind power there are now calls for more renewables even from some former champions of traditional power sources.

Clean energy is more than an urgent environmental necessity. It is a driver of phenomenal innovation in business, says business writer Rod Oram. And former climate scientist Prof Dave Griggs says businesses need to act now or be left behind as the world transitions to a high-tech, low-carbon future. He’s in NZ to talk to Otago businesses about how the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can help.

Mexico will add 5GW of new clean energy to existing capacity, representing 170% growth in generation for wind and solar over the last 18 years. A project in Pakistan that converts harmful industrial waste into bits of charcoal which can be further converted into carbon free energy has won the global Clean Technology Innovation Award

Climate change

NZ’s “limited and largely ineffectual actions” on climate change risk undermining public confidence in our policy makers, say the authors of the latest Public Perceptions of the Environment report.

NZ Federated Farmers supports action to address climate change but says New Zealand’s responses should be practical, cost-effective and based on sound research. Forest Owners say the new Federated Farmers’ policy on climate change is a major step to help farmers understand trees are not an alternative to farming, but rather trees are tools to assist farming’s survivability. New Zealand’s forests and other land areas may be absorbing up to 60% more carbon dioxide than has been calculated, with much of this uptake likely occurring in native forests, say NIWA scientists.

New Zealand will be represented in an international team appointed by the United Nations to investigate the impacts of global warming of 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Canterbury University Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward will be among 86 experts from 39 countries who will prepare a special report for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The six ocean hot spots that teem with the biggest mix of species are also getting hit hardest by global warming and industrial fishing, a new study finds. And another new study has made it clear that northern Canada’s melting glaciers are now a major contributor to global sea level rise.

Focusing too narrowly on the environmental consequences of global warming underestimates the military threats, say top European and United Nations officials. Their warnings follow the conclusions of defence and intelligence agencies that climate change could trigger resource and border conflicts.

Energy efficiency

Ports of Auckland will be the first New Zealand port to install LED floodlights. It is estimated the switch to more energy efficient lighting will save nearly 7% of the port’s total electricity usage.

Electric vehicles

Electric cars are set to arrive far more speedily than anticipated due to the rising cost of complying with emissions regulations and the falling cost of batteries, says The Economist. Norway is leading the world when it comes to the uptake of electric vehicles. Last month electric car sales recorded a 37% market share of the country’s passenger car market. At this pace, Norway could reach the tipping point of the majority of sales being electric by the end of the year. 

An electric drone that can carry an adult passenger will begin “regular operations” in Dubai from July. The passenger uses a touch screen to select a destination. There are no other controls inside the craft which can fly for up to 30 minutes.

VW, which has regained the status of the world's largest carmaker, is pursuing a multi-billion-euro investment in battery-powered cars and new mobility services as Europe and China seek to encourage sales of plug-in cars and regulators tighten emissions rules, reports Reuters.