Solar and storage a game changer, Saudi Arabia kicking fossil fuels

Solar PV installed capacity 2010-2015 and projections to 2020 and 2030. Source: Irena

We're all about saving you energy and have rounded up the latest solar, climate and energy news so you don't have to. We’ve only included a couple of stories out of the US relating to the first week of the new Trump Administration. So much has happened since last Saturday that we could have filled this digest several times over and it would have been the biggest and the best news round up ever published. Everyone would have said so. But, with so many alternative facts floating around, it was impossible. Instead, we’ve chosen to highlight stories from around the world just to prove it isn’t always America first.

Solar and batteries

In the renewables sector solar PV will grow the fastest in terms of capacity and output, and new ways to store electricity will be a game changer for growing variable renewable energy generation, says a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.

A pilot project in a north England village will analyse how linking batteries can allow more households to install solar panels without expensive upgrades to the grid, reports Reuters. "Batteries will play a key role in the smart energy system of the future, keeping costs down for customers whilst allowing the power network to support greater concentrations of solar power," said Andrew Spencer, a systems expert with local company Northern Powergrid. A complete transition from carbon to solar and wind power looks practical and affordable within a generation, says UK energy commentator Chris Goodall.

Vox talks to MIT Energy Initiative about ways utilities and regulators can respond to the rapid growth of distributed energy resources like solar.

A Dutch port has opened what is claimed to be the largest solar farm in The Netherlands. A solar energy project that will slash the Marshall Islands dependence on diesel has received a major boost with a US$11 million soft loan for a hybrid energy system for four islands.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Within weeks Saudi Arabia, the world's largest producer of oil, will launch a tender process for an ambitious renewable energy programme which is expected to involve investment of between $30bn and $50bn by 2023 to help kick its addiction to fossil fuels. The United Arab Emirates has launched a $50 million renewable energy project fund to support renewable energy projects in the Caribbean.

Scotland is seeking to dramatically cut its reliance on fossil fuels for cars, energy and homes after setting a radical target to cut total climate emissions by 66% within 15 years.

US president Donald Trump signed executive orders this week to revive the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines, another step in his effort to dismantle former president Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, reports the Washington Post

Global demand for oil will still be growing in 2035 even with an enormous growth in electric cars in the next two decades, with numbers on the road rising from 1m to 100m, BP has predicted. In response Greg Muttitt, senior adviser at campaign group Oil Change International, said: “Every year BP has predicted a slowdown in renewable energy growth, and every year it has been wrong – but it’s done so again today. And BP says electric cars are going nowhere in the next 20 years, a view not shared by the car industry.”

Activists prevented coal being delivered to Fonterra’s Clandeboye dairy factory in South Canterbury and called on the company to use wood chips as an alternative fuel. As the second largest user of coal in NZ, Fonterra was contributing to climate change, said Jeanette Fitzsimons from Coal Action Network Aotearoa.

Climate change

The Kiwi dream of living by the sea could be swept away as councils across the country consider pushing for property restrictions to combat forecast sea level rises. In the meantime the insurance industry is warning that, if nothing is done, "properties currently lying in the risk path" may become uninsurable, reports Stuff.

Europe’s Atlantic-facing countries will suffer heavier rainfalls, greater flood risk, more severe storm damage and an increase in “multiple climatic hazards”, according to the most comprehensive study of Europe’s vulnerability to climate change yet.

The Trump administration is scrutinising studies and data published by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, while new work is under a "temporary hold" before it can be released. review extends to all existing content on the federal agency's website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth's climate is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame, reports AP.

Power prices

Household power disconnections climbed to their highest level in more than two years last winter as some of the bigger retailers raised prices, reports Energy News (subscription only). Almost 6,900 domestic customers had their electricity cut off for non-payment in the September quarter, according to Electricity Authority data.

Electric vehicles

Advances in battery technology have helped to cut the price of average battery pack for an electric vehicle from about $1,000/kWh to roughly $227/kWh since 2010. That figure will continue to come down, potentially bringing EVs close to parity with the cost of other cars, says global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

In the past year or so, the term “Tesla challenger” has become something of a cliche when applied to Chinese-backed electric vehicle start-ups. But according to analysts, it will be quite some time before a genuine rival to the American market leader emerges, reports the South China Morning Post.

Tairua, Whitianga and Coromandel Town will soon have charging stations, ensuring that most of the Coromandel will be easily accessible to electric cars, reports the Waikato Times.

The 10 most obscure electric cars from around the world are reviewed by