The rise of global solar PV, electric vehicles sales hit new high in NZ

Solar PV Global Capacity and Annual Additions, 2006-2016. REN21

We're all about saving you energy and have rounded up the latest solar, climate and energy news so you don't have to.

Solar and batteries

During 2016, at least 75 GW of solar PV capacity was added worldwide – equivalent to the installation of more than 31,000 solar panels every hour, according to the latest Renewables Global Status Report (PDF). It says growth was due largely to the increasing competitiveness of solar PV as well as the rising demand for electricity and improving awareness of its potential as countries seek to alleviate pollution and reduce CO2 emissions.

Replacing coal with solar power would save American lives and money, according to a new study. It found that if the US transitioned from coal to solar PV nearly 52,000 lives would be saved with an investment of $1.1 million per life.Rooftop solar panels in towns and cities across Scotland were able to generate more than the average home’s demand for electricity throughout last month, according to WWF Scotland. 

French energy company Engie has announced plans to invest ‘a minimum’ $1 billion in India as it looks to strengthen its share in the rapidly growing solar power market. A little-known company from Thailand is eyeing a major push into energy storage with plans to develop a factory somewhere in Asia that would rival Tesla’s Gigafactory in both size and scope. A Californian start up says it has developed a solar roof product that generates more electricity than Tesla’s solar roof tiles and costs less.

Before his abrupt death a year ago, the pop musician Prince made an investment in green energy that’s now helping solar start-ups weather an assault from President Donald Trump, reports Bloomberg. President Trump’s latest idea for the proposed border wall between the US and Mexico is to cover it with solar panels so the electricity they generate can help offset construction costs.

China's largest and most advanced solar-powered unmanned aircraft has set a domestic record for flight ceiling by reaching an altitude of over 20,000 meters, according to its designer.

Climate change

A coalition of economic, education, and local government leaders in the US, say they will continue to abide by the Paris agreement regardless of America's withdrawal. The ‘We Are Still In’ coalition includes 125 cities, 9 states, 902 businesses and investors, and 183 colleges and universities. President Trump may abandon US pledges to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, but that step seems unlikely to stall the push to adopt cleaner forms of energy. Around the world, coal-fired power plants are being shuttered as governments and private companies invest billions in wind turbines and solar farms, reports AP

AP also reports China has reaffirmed its commitment to the landmark agreement and is poised to spend heavily in coming years on renewables. If China truly is to lead the world in promoting renewables, it’s going to have to think small as well as big. The real opportunity is in pushing innovative greentech -- especially the type that fits on a rooftop, reports Bloomberg. California says it will cooperate with China on clean technology, emissions trading and other "climate-positive" efforts in a bid to fill a gap left by the US. And India's Prime Minister and the new French President say they will co-operate in the fight against climate change.

NIWA is investing $18 million in three new supercomputers which it says will enable scientists to provide better information on a range of issues including how climate change will affect New Zealand. NZ councils are going to be told not to build or approve developments or structures lower than 1.9 metres above the high tide mark under new advice on rising sea levels. It's a half-metre increase on the Ministry for the Environment's previous advice a decade ago, based on new information showing sea levels will rise faster than anticipated.

Protesters in Wellington sent a strong message during a brief visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday. Greenpeace activists scaled a crane and unfurled a banner reading "Climate Denial, Huge Mistake! RESIST" and about 200 people gathered at Parliament to “unwelcome” Tillerson.

Renewables and fossil fuels

Representatives from countries accounting for 90 percent of the world’s clean energy investment and 75 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions - including the US - are in Beijing this week to discuss how to scale renewables, improve efficiency and cooperate on clean energy initiatives.

Australia’s largest coal project will go ahead in Queensland with one environmental group saying there will be a massive backlash from Australians who understand the project is fundamentally wrong.

Power prices

Despite mounting pressure from New Zealand Aluminium Smelters to force changes to escalating electricity transmission costs, some analysts are picking the Tiwai Point smelter in Southland will remain open for the ``foreseeable future’’, reports the Otago Daily Times.

Electric vehicles

The number of electric vehicles in the world reached 2 million by the end of 2016, says the International Energy Agency. NZ electric vehicle registrations hit a new high last month. Government figures show 279 EVs were registered in May, taking the total fleet to 3,576. Twelve months earlier the total was 1394.

A technology developed by US researchers could provide an "instantly rechargeable" method that is safe, affordable and environmentally friendly for recharging electric and hybrid vehicle batteries through a quick and easy process similar to refueling a car at a gas station. Every car sold in India from 2030 will be electric, under new government plans that have delighted environmentalists and dismayed the oil industry. Electric vehicles were displacing 17.8 thousand barrels of oil per day by the end of 2016. With increasing sales of EVs that number is on track to 28.4 thousand a day by the end of 2017, reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Government ministers approved KiwiRail's move to ditch its electric locomotive fleet in favour of diesel units without even knowing the cost, reveals Newshub.