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Here comes the sun

1 September 2006

Media Statement

Here comes the sun

If you are thinking about installing a solar water heater and reducing your impact on the environment, then the Government wants to hear from you.

Government Spokesperson on Energy Efficiency and Conservation and Green Party MP Jeanette Fitzsimons today released a discussion document setting out ideas for a new programme to increase the use of solar water heating and is interested in receiving feedback from those in the industry and members of the public.

"Kiwi families can save money on their energy bills while also reducing their contribution to climate change by installing solar water heating," she says.

Ms Fitzsimons today visited Beacon Pathway's NOW Home in Waitakere, a research home built to test the performance of a range of easily installed and cost-effective sustainability features, including solar water heating.

The NOW Home tenants report that over the summer the solar water system provided all their hot water needs, with some electrical boosting required only in the cooler months.

Provisional results from monitoring show that, in the past 11 months, solar has provided approximately 55% of the tenants' water heating needs, equivalent to a saving of 2500kWh or about $425 on water heating alone.

"We know that an efficient solar water heating system can generally halve water heating costs for an average family. However, we also know the up-front costs of installing solar water heating can be high, and independent information and qualified installers can be hard to find," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"The Government is looking for a big step up in solar and wants more kiwi families and businesses to switch on to solar, so we are developing a new programme to overcome some of these barriers."

Energy and Climate Change Minister David Parker says the Government has agreed to a Green Party plan to invest in a new solar water heating programme as part of a broad approach to promoting energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"I am pleased to be working closely with Jeanette Fitzsimons as we make progress on this initiative," Mr Parker said.

"Switching to solar water heating is one of the many common sense actions kiwi families can take to respond to climate change."

The discussion document looks at information provision, quality, installation capacity, and possible options for reducing costs leading to greater uptake of solar.

Ms Fitzsimons says she's interested in hearing the industry's views before decisions are made on where Government investment will achieve the best results.

"This is an opportunity to not only give solar a boost but also identify successful ideas that may in future be applied to other renewable energy or energy efficient technologies. Solar is not the only option the Government is interested in, but it's a good starting point."

David Parker says any decisions on a solar water heating programme will be aligned with other work underway to promote energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy including the Government's climate change work programmes, the development of the New Zealand Energy Strategy and the new National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy.

Final decisions on the new solar water heating programme are due to be made before the end of the year.

The discussion document is available from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) at The closing date for responses is 29 September 2006.


Background information

What is the NOW Home?

The NOW home is a research home built to test the performance of a range of easily installed and cost-effective sustainability features. The NOW Home is the first of Beacon Pathway's collaborative, action-based research projects aiming to find affordable ways of improving the sustainability of all New Zealand homes.

Beacon Pathway is a research consortium funded by key industry organisations to help build healthy, sustainable communities by improving New Zealand's housing stock and affordability.

Beacon's consortium partners are: Building Research, Fletcher Building, New Zealand Steel, Scion (formerly Forest Research) and Waitakere City Council. Contributions from these partners are matched, dollar for dollar, by funding from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST).

Further information is available at

How much can I save by installing a solar water heating (SWH) system?

The answer will be different for every home, depending how many people live there, how much hot water they use, how much sun the home gets, and which SWH system they use.

In the average New Zealand household, about one-third of energy costs can be attributed to heating water. An effective SWH system will reduce electricity consumption for water heating by 50% or more over the course of a year. In summer months, the reduction of electricity consumption for water heating should be more than 80%, but in winter months it will be much less..

An effective SWH system on average saves about 2,200 kw/H (kilowatt hours) of electricity consumption a year. At current electricity prices, that's between $350 to $450 per year.

How does a solar water heating system contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

A SWH system contributes indirectly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by reducing the use of electricity generated from fossil fuels. A SWH system saving about 2,200 kw/H a year reduces greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 1.4 tonnes of CO2 per year (using the Ministry for the Environment's emission factor of 600kg/MWh for electricity sector carbon dioxide emissions).

Another way of looking at it is that the savings from three SWH systems over a year is equivalent to taking one car off the road.

How much will the new programme cost?

The Government has not yet decided on the size, scope or cost of a new solar water heating programme. The Government wants feedback on the discussion document from those directly involved in SWH and interested members of the general public, before making its final decisions.

What's the Government already doing to promote SWH?

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) current activities include:

· grants of up to $300 per installation to offset the cost of interest on loans;

· providing public information and undertaking some promotion to the construction industry; and

* improving quality assurance by working with the industry to develop technical standards and training opportunities.

The proposed new programme will build on these existing initiatives.

What else is the Government doing to promote energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy?

The Government is developing a New Zealand Energy Strategy (NZES) that will set a long term strategic direction for the energy sector, and a new National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (NEECS) that will focus on managing energy demand, improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy into the future. The Government is also working on a comprehensive work programme to help New Zealanders adapt and respond to climate change.

There are also a number of lower-level initiatives underway. Examples are:

· Improving energy efficiency in homes and buildings through the review of the Building Code;

· Developing a Home Energy Rating Scheme (HERS);

· The Warm Homes programme, which helps New Zealanders to reduce the pollution effects of home heating while staying warm.

What new options for solar water heating are being considered?

Components of the new programme could include:

· Greater use of solar water heating on Government buildings;

· Some form of tax incentives for businesses interested in going solar;

· Underwriting a tender scheme to support industry expansion;

· Incentives for new home builders;

· An enhanced loan or grant scheme.


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