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Transpower issues "game changing" report on solar

A new Transpower report into the future of electricity has been labelled "the most disruptive study to emerge in the New Zealand energy space".

The country’s electricity grid operator, Transpower, has just released an addendum to last year’s significant report on New Zealand’s energy future, Te Mauri Hiko, which confirms that a renewable future is the most affordable for New Zealanders.

The addendum, called The Sun Rises on a Solar Energy Future, takes into account new technical work done by Transpower around battery technology.

Greenpeace climate campaigner, Amanda Larsson, says this latest update leaves no question that New Zealand should have a future powered significantly by solar.

"This report is a game changer. It’s the most disruptive study to emerge in the New Zealand energy space, and it’s exactly the sort of forward-thinking our Government should be taking notice of," she says.

"What this report does is bust every myth the energy industry has been spinning around why we can’t have solar in our country."

The report says many parts of New Zealand enjoy more sun than parts of the world where solar generation is already common, and the quality and availability of New Zealand sun is no barrier to a thriving solar energy system.

It also rejects the notion that solar doesn’t make economic sense in New Zealand. Utility level solar is already pricing on par with gas-fired peaking power stations, and solar is set to become the world’s cheapest form of energy.

Larsson says the Transpower report is a fresh call to start building new, clean solar power in New Zealand, particularly following the recent revelation that Genesis Energy has been burning record-setting amounts of coal during the sunniest months of the year.

"The price of power in New Zealand is set by the most expensive energy source in the grid. This means when they burn expensive fossil fuels like coal, people’s power bills go up and the big power companies profit," she says.

"Summer is exactly the time of year we’re being flooded with clean energy from the sun. With proper investment in solar, we could have been protecting hundreds of thousands of people from rising energy bills, and alleviating pressure on our climate.

"We’ve met less than four percent of our solar potential here in New Zealand. It’s time to seize the sun."

‘The Sun Rises on a Solar Energy Future’ was released days before maintenance work is set to begin at the OMV-operated Pohokura gas field off the Taranaki coast. Austria-based OMV have contracted a rig from Singapore to carry out the work.

Analysts predict the shut down will push power prices up in much the same way that faults and shutdowns at Pohokura drove major electricity price spikes last year.

Larsson says this shows that dirty fuels like gas are unreliable and New Zealanders are paying the price in higher energy bills.

"Not only is renewable energy like solar and wind cheaper and cleaner, but it also adds reliability to the grid so people aren’t hit with unfair price spikes every time some maintenance needs to be done on the gas fields," she says.

"When your solar panel is faulty, you can phone a sparky to come round and fix it. You don’t have to drag a massive oil rig from the other side of the world just to repair a fault."

In every scenario explored in the ‘The Sun Rises on a Solar Energy Future’, New Zealand’s future holds a significant increase in both distributed and utility-scale solar.

Larsson says the report is a reality check for the Government who must make urgent investment in the technology of the future.

"To echo the Transpower report: ‘We can’t afford to wait for the future’. If the Government is serious about acting on climate change, we should see a 2019 Budget brimming with commitments to help solarise New Zealand."

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