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Solar in Schools launch – Dr Russel Norman

Solar in Schools launch – Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman
Laingholm Primary School

Tēnā koutou Tēnā koutou Tēnā koutou katoa.

Papatuanuku te whaea, tēnā koe.
E te whenua, tēnā koe.
E te tumuaki, a Martyn, tēnā koe.
E ngā kaiako, tēnā koutou.
E ngā tamariki o tēnei kura, tēnā koutou.

No reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

It’s great to be here today.

Thanks to Laingholm School for hosting us - in particular Principal Martyn Weatherill and Madeleine Collins, to all the pupils and to the local community members who’ve come along.

Thank you for the warm mihi.

Congratulations to all of you for Laingholm’s Green-Gold Enviro school status. No mean feat and clearly the result of a lot of hard work.

And big congratulations to Oliver, William, Josh and the rest of the Year 6 kids who’ve been leading the solar project.

You will not regret choosing sun over nuclear, I can guarantee it.

Before I talk about why turning energy from the sun into electricity is a great idea, I thought I’d check…who knows what it is that members of parliament like myself do?

Hands up who has heard of the Beehive…

I know it sounds like somewhere where honey is made but it’s actually somewhere laws are made.

It’s the place down in Wellington where politicians like me spend most days, passing news laws, updating old laws and holding the Government to account for the stuff it does.

We do a lot of talking down there. And a lot of debating.

People often say if you could take all the hot air generated in Parliament and turn it into power we wouldn’t need to look at any other energy sources.

But no one’s quite figured out how to do that yet, so we’re here today to talk about a wonderful form of energy which we do need and which we should be using more of – the sun.

Right now sun is hitting rooftops right across New Zealand (although if this morning’s weather forecast is to be believed, it’s taking a holiday in some places).

Where the sun is shining, it’s a bit like a tap running, with no one collecting the water.

We’re wasting perfectly good, free power.

The Green Party agrees with Oliver, William, Josh and their team that we should be harnessing it instead, and using it to help run our schools.

Parents and teachers here today will know that power bills in New Zealand are too high – both in our homes and in our schools.
Last month I was at Peria School in the far North; it’s a great little school, where it was warm enough, even in June, for most of the kids to be in bare feet.

Despite only having 31 pupils, the school has been paying $900 a month for power.

That is years and years’ worth of pocket money - every month.

The school decided this was crazy, and has just installed 10KW of solar, which it hopes will save it up to $6,000 every year.

Solar is a great fit for New Zealand schools because the vast majority of their power usage is during the day, when the sun is at its peak.

If New Zealand schools can save money on power, thousands of dollars are suddenly freed up to put into other areas of teaching and learning.

At Peria School, they plan to hire a music teacher and upgrade the school pool with the money they’ve saved.

I understand Laingholm is considering using its savings for a playground upgrade.
Hands up who’d like an even cooler playground?

Getting energy from the sun rather than buying it from the big electricity companies is the difference between renting power and owning it.

And by helping save money, solar could mean schools don’t need to call upon parents to dip into their own pockets so much to raise extra funds.

But the gains are not all financial.

One of the best summaries I’ve seen of why solar is a great idea for schools came from the principal of Pegasus Bay School in Canterbury.

Pegasus has a ground-breaking goal of being zero carbon. It is fully powered by solar.

Its Principal Roger Hornblow said: “Many people say we need to leave a better planet for our children - we say we need to leave better, more informed children for our planet”.

He is so right. When children learn first-hand about clean energy and energy efficiency, they are leaning skills they will carry through the rest of their lives.

This equips them to be future guardians of papatuanuku in a way that I don’t think my generation necessarily was.

Solar has the added benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

New Zealand has always had a head start on this front, with a lot of our electricity already coming from renewable sources.

But we shouldn’t be complacent.

We have an opportunity to create an electricity system that emits no greenhouse gases at all.

Thanks to a solar revolution around the world, solar PV is now cheaper and more efficient than ever.

But New Zealand’s uptake of solar is still low by international levels.
In America, one home or business goes solar every four minutes.

More than a million Australian homes now have solar installed - more than one in 10 houses.

Meanwhile a Federal Government initiative in Australia has seen solar installed in more than 60% of Australian primary and secondary schools.

These systems are now generating enough electricity to power the equivalent of 4,600 average households, every day.

So where is New Zealand in all this?

According to the solar industry, the Government has been “ambivalent’ at best about initiatives like solar in schools.

The Green Party is committed to getting New Zealand up to speed and switched on to solar.

Most parts of New Zealand are blessed with good sunshine hours.

It’s time to start tapping into this and turning it into cleaner, cheaper power.

That’s why we’re announcing today that if in Government, we’ll put $20m over three years into kick-starting a solar revolution in our schools.

The funding will help over 500 schools install enough solar to make a real difference to power bills and carbon footprints.

It will free up thousands of dollars per school per year– money which can go into exciting projects rather than to big power companies.

Solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 years, so schools with panels can enjoy free power for many years to come

The Green Party will also ensure that schools can sell any excess power they generate back into the grid during holidays and over the long summer break.
So they’re not only saving money while the school is open, they’re also making money while the school is closed.
Remember how I told you just before that we make laws in the Beehive?

We want to make laws so that New Zealand is smarter and cleaner.

Solar power is a great example of something that is smart and clean.

It will save schools money, educate our kids about clean power, and help put New Zealand on a path to a 100% renewable electricity system.

Congratulations again to Laingholm for making the decision to contribute to a greener, smarter future for New Zealand.

I look forward to getting into Government and helping many more schools do the same.


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