Is our Crown-owned electricity market regulator scared of private solar proliferation?

This is odd:

At present, 67,000 homes generate electricity from solar panels on their roof – a tiny percentage of the two million homes connected to the national grid.

But those 67,000 are a forceful minority, who argue they are producing clean energy from sunshine.

However, Electricity Authority chief executive Carl Hansen told Nine to Noon that going solar could hurt people in the pocket while doing nothing for the environment.

“It is scarce money that people are spending on installing their own renewable generation that is already in their system,” he said. “The environment is not any better off.”

Unless all of the electricity generated in New Zealand is from renewables, and unless the dams are going to never run low, I think that’s a bit of a rich statement.  

Mr Hansen said, since over 80 percent of New Zealand’s electricity was now renewable, there was little environmental gain from going solar.

It was also a costly way to go, he said, because solar electricity was expensive to generate.

“You are having solar generation come in, the cost of it is about $200 a megawatt hour,” he said.

“But grid-supplied generation from wind or geothermal, which is equally renewable, is about $80 a megawatt hour, so the current price structure is encouraging people to go and buy expensive stuff.”

I’m not aware of anyone getting into solar because it costs them more than taking electricity off the grid. Hansen’s argument is that the big boys are more efficient, but he doesn’t line that up against single case studies.

Solar energy is essentially free in perpetuity with the only problem being that you have to pay off your kit over time.  You pay a lot in advance.  But with more efficient cells, more efficient micro-inverters, more efficient and cheaper storage, the numbers continue to tumble in the right direction.

I suspect what the Electricity Authority is really concerned about is that a larger private solar commitment is going to undermine the long-term investments that our generators have made, perhaps causing them to have to up their prices.

Just arguing to not use solar because you’re swapping renewable for renewable is not what most people buy solar for.  They buy it because, over a period of time, it starts saving them money.



Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.