by Gareth Hughes
New research just released has shown that solar installations in New Zealand have increased by 370% in just two years and the solar energy sector is currently worth around $40 million.
It’s a huge rise and highlights the real potential of clean energy in New Zealand. It also marks the beginning of a big change for electricity networks that have been built around a clumsy and centralised old model, towards a smarter, cleaner more distributed electricity grid. The phenomenal growth is all the more surprising because New Zealand has no support for solar and there are still many barriers to greater uptake. Similar increases are being seen in other countries with solar internationally passing the significant 100 GW milestone in 2012.
(Source Ren 21 Renewables 2013 Global Status Report)
With much less than 1% of New Zealand’s electricity coming from solar we have a huge opportunity to harness more of the sun’s power and save money at the same time. Generating power close to where it is being used from clean sources like solar reduces transmission costs and losses, increases resiliency and boosts regional economic development and generates jobs.
I recently proposed a clean energy law to help make it easier for households and businesses to generate their own power from solar. The need for a fair tariff for solar electricity exported to the grid is a key recommendation from a recent International Energy Agency report. Along with NZ Power we could build an electricity network that gives the power back to the people and encourages cleaner, cheaper and smarter energy.
Instead of looking for more risky oil deep off our coasts and coal that we know we can’t afford to burn if we want a stable climate, the Government should be looking at small scale distributed renewables like solar for New Zealand’s energy future.