Parlimentary Commissioner for Environment “out of step” with international study

The Chief Executive of solarcity says the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is “out of step” with guidance from the International Energy Agency, which in July this year encouraged all OECD nations to increase funding for solar hot water heating and cooling.

Andrew Booth says the IEA found that solar thermal power could meet one sixth of global demand for heating and cooling, saving 800 mega tonnes of a CO2 emissions a year by 2050.* This global view is in contrast to recommendations made in the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s July 2012 report Evaluating solar water heating: Sun, renewable energy and climate change.

“I believe there is a fundamental flaw in the Commissioner’s argument in the direct linkage between the peak in electricity demand on the coldest, stormiest day in winter and the contribution of water heating to this and hence the ability of solar to offset it, “ Booth says. “The fact that solar water heating has ‘least effect when most needed’ is also when water heating has the lowest contribution to aggregate demand and hence least ability to make a difference. The peak demand on a cold winter’s day is not for hot water, it is for space heating and light, neither of which can realistically be offset by solar water heating or load control anyway.

“Energy security is also an important factor for New Zealand, and solar has an important role to play in protecting water levels and ensuring that hydro can be used to meet peak requirements,” he says. “Using solar in the Summer helps towards ensuring that the Summer depletion of lake levels is kept to a minimum, providing a more robust buffer leading into winter and helping to avoid the use of carbon-based fuels to meet peak demand for power.

“Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment needs to be careful about promoting a narrow view of a technology that is in fact reducing electricity and carbon use, and providing cost benefits and security of supply to homeowners – even in winter,” Booth says. “The Commissioner is only looking at environmental benefits gained from reducing peak power demand, focusing on the reduced efficiency of Solar Hot Water in the three months of winter. We all know there is less sun in winter, so the report sheds no more light on that fact, but regardless, Solar Hot Water does still reduce electricity usage and lessens the peak load. It is still a proven, beneficial technology in the mix of energy efficiency.

“Solar Hot Water heating has never been promoted as the silver bullet, but we do know that it provides part of the solution to climate change, as with all energy efficiency solutions when they work together,” Booth says. “Insulating your house helps, as does double glazing, but these solutions are not silver bullets either, but combined with Solar Hot Water they help immensely.

“New Zealand has failed to take any meaningful action on climate change for the last 20 years, and this report does nothing to change that fact,” he says. “New Zealand stands alone as the only OECD nation to provide no support whatsoever for solar technologies.

Meanwhile, Booth says the report is factually incorrect (p25) when it states that the Nelson Solar Saver Scheme did not achieve the outcomes it was set up to achieve.

“The Nelson Solar Saver Scheme achieved the majority of the outcomes it set out to achieve, and the council stopped the scheme so that it could consider broadening its initiative to incorporate solar photovoltaics. In its first year the Nelson scheme put more systems on roofs that whole of region in Auckland, which is surely a huge contribution towards combating climate change.