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Solar schemes on the boil around the country

What's a promise worth?

Not a lot, perhaps, but it's better than nothing; six councils are considering new solar initiatives in their towns and cities as part of their Solar Promise.

Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio, the Nelson Environment Centre, and SolarCity launched The Solar Promise campaign in July, calling for councils, central government, individuals and businesses to do what they can to remove barriers to solar and make the technology more affordable.

He says a number of councils were already looking into solar projects before the advent of the Solar Promise, including the three Southland councils, Westland District Council (which waived consent fees in 2007), Auckland City Council and Dunedin City Council

New Plymouth, Marlborough, Wanganui, Hutt City and Wellington have also confirmed solar initiatives are being introduced into their planning.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council has also proposed funding a solar hot-water scheme in its Draft Long Term Plan for 2012-22, and Hastings District Council has already indicated it is likely to support this recommendation.

One of the easiest things a council can do for ratepayers is offer Solar Saver Schemes, Miccio says – an innovative rates-based financing mechanism to help homeowners spread out the cost of going solar. Councils can also waive solar resource consents to further remove cost barriers.

“In the scheme’s first year Nelson families put more solar systems on their roofs than the whole of Auckland City, immediately getting up to one week’s free power every month."

Andrew Booth, chief executive of solar power company SolarCity, says the increased number of councils considering Solar Saver Schemes is crucial to a sustainable future.

“Few challenges facing our families and communities are more urgent than the rising cost of power for our homes, and the twin crisis of climate change and oil depletion,” Booth says. “New Zealand has a world-class solar resource yet according to EECA only about 35,000 New Zealand homes currently have solar.

“Councils have a central role to play in tackling climate change – and they are well placed to help New Zealand meet its renewable energy targets, as well as create jobs and reduce energy bills for people living in their community.”

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