I want a Tesla.
I want a car that can get from zero to warp speed in a matter of seconds. I want a car that upgrades itself over the wireless networks and gets even better without me doing anything. I want a car that can outperform a Ferrari but is cheaper to run than a scooter. I want a car for the future because despite the impending driverless car market, I love driving and I love driving cars that drive well.
But here’s the thing, if I get a Tesla (assuming it’s my turn to win Lotto) plugging in my car at night will double my power bill each month. Sure, I’ll save a lot on petrol but will the grid cope with me and all my mates (I’m very generous with my imaginary Lotto money) plugging in all our cars all at the same time?
But all joking aside It’s a bit of a quandary and one that should be keeping our politicians awake at night because they’re working to encourage me. Once the Energy Innovation Amendment Bill is signed into law I’ll be able to drive my Tesla at speed (well, at 50kph) down the bus lane while you lot in your dinosaur-powered traction engines plod along in traffic. Oh how I shall wave as I go past.
And it won’t just be me. Forget cars switching to electricity, what about trucks? Ian Wright (a clever Kiwi export) is already building electric garbage trucks in the US and there we are talking about driverless vehicles. The robots are already driving articulated trucks across Australia and soon they’ll be doing the same thing here.
This is great news because the transport sector is a major user of energy but is very poor at using renewable energy.
According to the newly released New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy 2017-2022, transport is one of the top three areas of focus for the government if it wants to bring down our use of non-renewables.
So we really do have to tackle the amount of petrol, oil, diesel and even dirty old coal we use right across the board.
The EECS encourages New Zealand to replace these non-renewable forms of energy production with renewables such as solar, for two main reasons:
Firstly, to help New Zealand achieve its international obligations around climate change and fair enough too. We’ve signed up to be 30 per cent below 2005 emission levels by 2030 and so far we’re not exactly on track to meet that deadline.
The second reason is because it’s cheaper to power things with renewable electricity. The cost of digging coal is tremendous. The cost of hunting for oil is mind boggling. The cost of catching the sun’s energy as it falls wherever it wants on our planet is tiny and shrinking every year.
But there’s a third reason why we should look at solar power for our household consumption: health.
New Zealanders should have warmer, drier homes, but instead we have damp homes that make us sick. The government faces two major challenges this election – housing for everyone and the increasing cost of looking after our health system. Solar power can and should be a pre-requisite for all those new social housing projects the government is planning to build because when you have solar power you reduce your outgoings and can keep the house warmer and drier which we know will can reduce the plague of illnesses that affects too many New Zealanders.
As part of the government’s push to encourage us all to buy electric cars, new garages must be built with a power outlet designed to charge electric vehicles. Wouldn’t it be a great idea if we took that one step further and said all new houses should be built with solar panels built into the roof?
New Zealand has more sunshine hours than Germany but it’s the Germans who are decommissioning their nuclear power plants and building solar farms, not New Zealand. In California, the latest energy crisis is too much electricity being produced by solar power. Too much power. What a thought.
So, electric cars for all, powered by household electricity predominantly delivered from renewable resources and all done and dusted by 2030. This is absolutely achievable in New Zealand because we’re already well on the way. Currently around 80 per cent of New Zealand‘s power comes from renewable resources. We think that figure can and should hit 100 per cent by 2030.
Mark Unwin is the managing director of iGenerate Solar, a new New Zealand-owned company passionate about providing clean reliable and affordable solar energy that works for homes and business.