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Call on Energy Minister Megan Woods to end oil & gas subsidies, and use that $88m/year to put solar panels and batteries on 500k homes…

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Greenpeace has unveiled a plan called Solarise New Zealand that would see half a million homes solarised over the next 10 years with money currently being used to subsidise the oil and gas industry.

The plan was launched today as the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, arrived in Auckland to begin a national tour to celebrate the Government’s April announcement that there will be no new offshore oil and gas exploration permits. Greenpeace will also be holding events around the country about New Zealand’s transition to clean energy.

The 20-page discussion paper, Seize the Sun, explores the current energy climate, the problems with our power sector, and the steps the Labour-led coalition needs to take over the next two years to secure a clean, modern, and affordable energy system for New Zealanders.

Greenpeace is petitioning the Government to adopt the plan.

Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, Amanda Larsson, says fitting out half a million homes with solar and batteries over the next 10 years would provide a much-needed injection of clean electricity into the New Zealand energy system.

“Not only would this help to reduce our climate pollution, but it would put power back in the hands of New Zealanders, increase the resilience of the national grid, and lower energy bills across the board,” she says.

“When the Coalition Government made the announcement in April banning new offshore oil and gas exploration permits, it sent a clear message that we must look elsewhere for the energy to run our cars, homes, and economy.

“We now need to urgently embark on an ambitious programme to build the new clean energy required to replace the fuels of the past. Significantly increasing the amount of home-grown clean power we generate from the sun sits at the heart of this transition.”

National grid operator, Transpower, forecasts a doubling in demand for electricity in New Zealand over the next thirty years, driven by the electrification of transport and industry. It predicts we’ll need as many as 1.5 million solar households.

Greenpeace’s 10-year solar plan would work through a Government interest free loan on panels and a battery, delivering solar power with no upfront costs for the homeowner. It would be financed by diverting the $78m to $88m a year of public money currently spent on subsidies for the oil and gas industry.

The plan would provide additional support to 100,000 lower incomes homes through a government grant that would cover at least half of the system cost.

The zero interest loans would be attached to the house that receives the solar panels and batteries, not to the individuals who own it or rent it. They could be administered through Regional Councils, and paid back through rates, much in the same way that home insulation loans have been managed to date.

Larsson says the way New Zealand’s energy system currently works mean the national grid is scaled to meet demand during just a few hours of the day when it’s the highest.

“It’s inefficient and costly to build that much infrastructure when most of the time it’s not even being used,” she says.

“By installing 500,000 batteries in homes, we can ensure that energy is stored when it’s most abundant, and then deployed when it’s most needed. This reduces the enormous cost of building more local distribution and transmission lines to meet demand at peak times.”

If implemented, this would contribute 1.5 GW of new clean power – or one-and-a-half times the capacity of Huntly Power Station – and 3 GW of grid-stabilising battery storage to New Zealand’s electricity grid over the next decade.

Larsson says the solar plan is part of a wider programme of regulatory reform needed in New Zealand, outlined in Greenpeace’s Seize the Sun discussion paper, which includes doubling down on energy efficiency and supporting community energy schemes.

The paper was released hot on the heels of the Government’s first Electricity Price Review report, which is investigating why residential power prices are so high in New Zealand.

“What’s now required is a full rethink of how our electricity system is designed, run, and regulated. Timid adjustments won’t be enough,” says Larsson.

“We have a once in a generation opportunity right in front of us to ensure New Zealanders live more comfortably, while significantly increasing clean electricity for everyone’s benefit.”