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Electric car better investment than solar

NZN 3/06/2016 Pattrick Smellie

The extra expense of an electric vehicle roughly equates to the cost of installing roof-top solar electricity generation, making it a better investment for environmental outcomes, says John Hancock, the head of the Smart Grid Forum.

The forum, a future-casting electricity industry group established by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, has released a new report on how internet-enabled electricity management might shape the sector's future.

"While installing solar panels on your house may mean cheaper power bills, which may be great for the individual consumer, it isn't really doing anything to reduce New Zealand's carbon emissions," said Hancock, chairman of the Smart Grid Forum.

"On the other hand, buying an EV instead of a diesel or petrol-powered car has a clear impact.

"EVs are still quite expensive, but the amount someone would normally spend on installing solar roughly covers the additional cost of an EV over a new petrol or diesel car," said Hancock.

"From a national perspective, we'd reduce emissions more if people bought EVs rather than installing solar."

Rooftop solar PV typically cost around $10,000 to install, while the cost of a plug-in hybrid EV is around $12,000 more than the cost of a petrol or diesel model, he said.

The conclusion is likely to dismay solar PV enthusiasts who tout the technology not only as a money-saving but a planet-saving move to reduce carbon emissions.

With 80 per cent-plus renewable electricity already from hydro, wind and geothermal resources, "solar PV uptake is unlikely to result in significantly better or worse outcomes (for national carbon emissions) than would be achieved otherwise," says the report, which draws on a range of recent studies.

The wider report says the development of smart grids, "using new technologies, IT and communications systems to increase consumer choice and the efficiency of the power system, have real potential to reduce carbon emissions around the world."

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