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An electric vehicle is a better investment than roof-top solar

Sat-18-2016 An electric vehicle is a better investment than roof-top solar

"Andrew Booth, chief executive of Solarcity, reckons anyone arguing an electric vehicle is a better investment than roof-top solar must be in the pocket of the traditional, monolithic electricity industry," Pattrick Smellie says.

OPINION: When big corporates talk rubbish and get caught, they generally pay a heavy price. Just ask Volkswagen after it was caught lying about its exhaust emissions.

Smaller businesses, however, generally get a softer run, especially if they're Davids against traditional, monolithic industry Goliaths.

Take, for example, peer-to-peer lender Harmoney, which positions itself as an 'anti-bank' while producing returns for its depositors averaging 13.22 per cent a year, which can only mean that far from sticking it to the man, a Harmoney lender is arguably sticking it to the borrower.  

Something similarly blind is going on in the way that elements of the fledgling solar electricity sector can't bear that electric vehicles offer far greater carbon emissions reductions in New Zealand than rooftop solar power.

Booth learnt his communications skills at the Greenpeace school of righteous shouting so, when a well-meaning collection of electricity industry boffins called the Smart Grid Forum recently concluded exactly that, Booth went ballistic.

Renewable electricity has one big downside

The argument was a "cynical and diversionary tactic" by the electricity industry to slow the uptake of home solar systems," he claimed.

Given that 80 per cent of New Zealand's electricity already comes from renewables, that solar photovoltaic panel systems are well below 2 per cent of that total, and that solar power is two to four times the cost of other renewables, might Booth not also be accused of cynical diversion?

It is an uncontroversial fact that renewable electricity has one big downside – when the wind doesn't blow, the rain doesn't fall, or the sun doesn't shine, then electricity has to be produced some other way.

Only geothermal energy produces constant renewable energy, and even then steamfield performance can be unpredictable.

Often, such shortfalls can be made up by another renewable energy form – water if it's not windy and vice versa.  But sometimes the best alternative is still a fast-starting gas-fired power station. 

Sure, solar generation costs are falling and battery technology is improving fast. When batteries become cheap and efficient enough, they'll replace gas-fired generators for back-up supply and today's electricity industry will look as modern as a rotary telephone. But it hasn't happened yet. 

Meanwhile, the country's transport fleet runs almost exclusively on fossil fuels.

An electric car is instead a petrol car

Switching a petrol car to an electric car using a battery charged by 80 per cent renewable electricity is so obviously going to produce bigger gains than installing rooftop solar that it's amazing there's even an argument.

As Booth himself points out, "the transport sector creates more than double the amount of CO2 emissions compared to the electricity sector."

Right now, the most powerful argument he can mount is that there are virtually no affordable electric vehicles on the market here.

But that may be about to change. The Motor Industry Association has surveyed vehicle importers and forecasts some 28 models of EV and plug-in hybrids will be available in New Zealand by 2020, from small passenger through to light commercial vehicles.

It costs around $10,000 to install rooftop solar, so as long as some of those new models are only about $10,000 more expensive than a comparable petrol or diesel vehicle, EVs will soon be available as a powerful personal act of emissions reduction in a country that, more than most other countries, has driven fossil fuels out of most of its electricity system already.

Source: http://ukrfuel.com/news-pattrick-smellie-solar-panels-v-electri-125.html

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