UK breaks solar record, US breaks from climate agreement

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

Solar power broke new records in the UK last Friday by providing nearly a quarter of the country’s electricity needs. Solar is predicted to be the source of more than half of Australia’s electricity generation by 2050. Currently at just over 3% of total generation it appears to be on track to deliver at least 30% by 2030.

Numerous forecasts by internationally respected bodies have proven woefully conservative when it comes to the predicting the growth of solar generation. Auke Hoekstra at the Technical University of Eindhoven, in The Netherlands, compares the predictions to what is actually happening.

Abu Dhabi has broken ground on what will be the world’s largest independent solar plant. The mammoth project is part of the UAE’s bid to diversify its energy sources and work towards a low carbon economy.  A hospital in Syria will have uninterrupted power from this week, charged by solar power in a project designers hope will save lives and can be repeated across the country, reports Reuters

The Auckland Harbour Bridge will be lit up with with lights powered by solar energy in a $10 million project scheduled to be completed this year. 

Climate change

US President Donald Trump has announced that he is withdrawing the US from the landmark Paris climate agreement. The US is the world's second-largest greenhouse gas emitter and would otherwise have accounted for 21 per cent of the total emissions reductions achieved by the accord through 2030. World leaders were quick to rebuke Trump’s decision. Todd Stern, a US special envoy for climate change from 2009 to 2016 said Trump's decision would be seen as an ugly betrayal - self-centred, callous, hollow, cruel.

Prior to Trump’s announcement the Associated Press consulted with more than two dozen climate scientists and analysed a special computer model scenario designed to calculate potential effects. Scientists said it would worsen an already bad problem and make it far more difficult to prevent crossing a dangerous global temperature threshold.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be faced with climate change protesters outside Parliament when he arrives in Wellington next week, reports TVNZ.

A group of leading economists say that the world risks catastrophic global warming in just 13 years unless countries ramp up taxes on carbon emissions to as much as NZ$140 per metric tonne.

NZ's greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 were 24.1 percent higher than 1990 levels according to government figures. Last year, New Zealand ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and committed to reducing emissions by 11 percent on 1990 levels by 2030. Forest & Bird says the figures show that New Zealand is set to release 647.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions between 2013 and 2020 – 137 million tonnes more than we are allowed under the Kyoto Protocol.

Our government has announced $3.3 million in new funding for eight climate change research projects in the agriculture, horticulture and forestry sectors.

Renewables and fossil fuels

While the US has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement the state of California this week passed legislation setting a target of 100% renewable electricity by 2045.

With plans for coal-fired power plants being shelved and solar prices tumbling to new lows, India’s energy transformation is in full swing, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. India’s bold vision of taking solar to an unparalleled scale is reviewed by Forbes.

The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant - site of the worst commercial nuclear power accident in US history - is struggling financially could close in 2019.

The NZ government has asked for more time to take a case against three Greenpeace activists involved in a peaceful protest against offshore oil exploration. Greenpeace has launched a petition calling for the charges to be dropped.

Students and staff are calling on the University of Auckland to divest from oil, coal and gas companies. This week a group staged a sit in. It was later followed by a march involving more than 200 people.

Power prices

Consumers who have been saving money by buying electricity at spot prices could see the tables turned as South Island lakes levels drop, reports Stuff.

NZ’s Utilities Disputes commissioner says she is concerned Kiwis are in the dark about what to do when their power is disconnected. More than 6,000 homes were disconnected in the last quarter of 2016, often due to no payment but just 41 people made complaints about being disconnected.

Despite record production, the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter paid as much for electricity as it made in gross profits this year because of rising electricity prices, reports RNZ.

Electric vehicles

A Scalextric-style stretch of road capable of charging cars while they drive at speeds of up to 100kmh has been created in France in a breakthrough that could make electric vehicles much more popular.