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NZ power companies ignoring Solar tech, consumers pay the price

By Sara Barker, 23 Jun 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Emerging technologies in the electricity and transport sectors are being stifled by outdated policies and signals from power companies by essentially trying to put a solar circle in a square hole, Sustainable Electricity Association New Zealand (SEANZ) says.

SEANZ's statements come after the release of a new report by Concept Consulting, titled “Electric cars, solar panels, and batteries in New Zealand; Vol 2: The benefits and costs to consumers and society”, which finds that “technologies of 'tomorrow' are emerging within 'yesterday’s' industry arrangements”.

“Anyone spending over $40,000 on a brand new vehicle should be considering an Electric Vehicle (EV)," says Brendan Winitana, SEANZ chairman, but this is just not the case.

"This report shows that the low price of carbon and lack of electricity pricing plans around charging means that the economics of EV’s is marginal and when we consider how long it takes to turn-over New Zealand's vehicle fleet and how many people are in a position to purchase a new EV, a lot more needs to be done to encourage their uptake,” he continues.

SEANZ believes that the problems lie in pricing signals that power companies communicate to customers, which the report says has had a negative impact on the uptake of Solar PV, says Winitana, who believes that solar PV must grow to ensure a net benefit to consumers and New Zealand.

“A report just released by University of Canterbury’s Electric Power Engineering Centre (EPEC) shows that the steady rise in the number of people installing Solar PV is about to balloon in the next two to three years due to continually reducing prices”. The cost of an average Solar PV installation will fall on average from around $9,500 to $7,600 and as an industry and as a country we need to be prepared for that,” Winitana continues.

Better pricing signals during daylight and sunshine hours, load shifting technology using Solar PV, residential and EV batteries will also let network operators know about the right kinds of requirements for the future network, which will ensure better investment decisions, Winitana says.

“Pricing signals are one thing, as there are significant non-monetary related values driving the rapid uptake of new technologies like Solar PV also. Although this report has only taken into account the financial value of investment of new technologies we need to be aware that a net present value calculation only tells part of the story and regardless of the economics consumers already do and will continue to make the choices that suit them best which is their right and we need to be able to accommodate them,” Winitana explains.

“If we are to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction targets and not impose a high economic cost on society we need a plan to embrace technologies which can lower our emissions and lower the costs for average kiwi households and EVs, Solar PV, and batteries all have an important role in this,” Winitana concludes.

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