Greenpeace has called for an overhaul of the electricity industry after a complaint against a tax on solar was quashed in court.

Solar energy company, Solarcity, had been awarded a full hearing to test whether an extra charge for solar users was in breach of electricity industry codes, but yesterday the High Court ruled that the challenge could not proceed as there was no jurisdiction for the Rulings Panel, an independent electricity appeals body, to hear it.

The case came after Hawke’s Bay lines company, Unison, introduced a solar tax last April. A Greenpeace petition about the tax has received almost 80,000 signatures.   Greenpeace campaigner, Kate Simcock, says the High Court decision is disappointing as it essentially allows companies like Unison to continue penalising solar users.

“The fact that this ridiculous tax cannot be properly challenged shows that the electricity industry in New Zealand is not accountable to anyone. Electricity is a closely guarded commodity that’s being run to serve private interests,” she says.

“Not only is this an industry that keeps prices high and on the rise, but it’s also systematically stifling the growth of the clean technology like solar that we urgently need in the face of a climate catastrophe.

“It’s morally repugnant that big electricity players are knowingly taking steps to slow the uptake of solar because they see it as a threat to their bottom line. It’s time for the Government to overhaul this diseased industry.”

As the effects of climate change continue to worsen, New Zealand has seen a deluge of extreme weather events, including floods, cyclones and droughts, in the space of just a few months.   Drought in the South Island has been so bad this year it’s deprived the hydro dams of water. As a result, the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world – coal – has made a comeback.

It’s been revealed that the New Zealand’s last coal-fired power station in Huntly is now firing up at full capacity, with owner Genesis Energy even buying extra coal from Indonesia to power it.

In April last year, Genesis announced it would be keeping Huntly’s coal burners on for at least another four years, despite previously promising to turn them off by 2018. This followed closed-door discussions by several power companies, including Meridian Energy, to subvert the decision to shut the burners down.

Simcock says New Zealand should never be in a position where it’s burning dirty energy like coal in 2017.

“Renewables already make up more than half of the world’s new power capacity and you’d think ‘clean, green’ New Zealand should be at the forefront of that,” she says.

“Instead, over the past year we’ve seen major electricity players conspire to keep dirty fuels burning with no regard for the climate crisis facing our communities or the consumers who are getting a bad deal.

“This is an electricity industry that has been allowed to run rogue for too long.”