A white knight – and so­lar pan­els

Central Leader - - OPINION -

New Zealand elec­tric­ity cor­po­rates are be­ing chal­lenged by a worl­drated ad­ver­sary.

The is­sue: Com­pa­nies are slash­ing the price they will pay new own­ers of so­lar power sys­tems who choose to sell sur­plus power from their roof-top source to con­ven­tional na­tional providers.

The first move came from Mer­cury En­ergy, vir­tu­ally halv­ing the ex­ist­ing pay­out rate to own­ers who in­stall new so­lar sys­tems.

So new users who have paid thou­sands of dol­lars for so­lar equip­ment be­liev­ing they could re­pay some of their out­lay from cor­po­rate grants will have to dig deeper into their sav­ings.

And long-es­tab­lished so­lar own­ers who’ve put grants from sur­plus power to good use might won­der when their turn for less will come.

En­ter a white knight in shin­ing ar­mour – Avaaz, a pow­er­ful and ex­pe­ri­enced protest group based in New York’s Man­hat­tan which has gained top world rank­ings on world is­sues.

Avaaz (the name means ‘‘voices’’) is cir­cu­lat­ing a pe­ti­tion to the New Zealand power com­pa­nies want­ing that decision re­versed.

The group’s leader, Ricken Pa­tel – the son of a Cana­dian-In­dian fa­ther, he be­gan school on an In­dian re­serve and is a Har­vard grad­u­ate – has re­leased a 2014 cam­paign list.

Avaaz records pe­ti­tions with mil­lions of sig­na­tures and ‘‘Save the world’’ protest marches which jam- packed sup­port­ers in New York and London streets as high­lights.

The out­come: 675,000 peo­ple in streets around the world, in­clud­ing New Zealand – 35,000 in Mel­bourne. The United Na­tions sec­re­tary gen­eral joined the world marchers. Among the tes­ti­mo­ni­als: The BBC: ‘‘ The marches brought more peo­ple on to the streets than ever be­fore, partly thanks to the or­gan­i­sa­tional power of the E (for en­vi­ron­ment) cam­paign of Avaaz …’’

Pres­i­dent Obama: ‘‘Our cit­i­zens keep march­ing, we can­not pre­tend we do not hear them …’’

Ger­many’s en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter: ‘‘I would like to thank the mil­lions of peo­ple who have joined Avaaz … with­out pub­lic support it will be im­pos­si­ble to stop cli­mate change.’’

He was one of the min­is­ters who met the cru­saders.

They also held ad­vo­cacy meet­ings with the cli­mate and en­ergy min­is­ters of France, Brazil and the UK.

The marchers de­liv­ered a 2.2 mil­lion sig­na­ture pe­ti­tion to world lead­ers – in­clud­ing the French pres­i­dent – call­ing for 100 per cent clean en­ergy.

More than 2000 put their names on lists of vol­un­teers to fight Ebola in Africa.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion sent $2 mil­lion to fund hos­pi­tals and care of the vic­tims.

Then there was the old en­emy, Mon­santo. This $60-bil­lion world cor­po­rate planned a mega plant in Ar­gentina to ex­tend its grip over global farm­ing and food chains.

Avaaz mem­bers joined with a lo­cal move­ment to launch a one mil­lion-strong pe­ti­tion and flooded the in­boxes of decision mak­ers with thou­sands of mes­sages. They joined top lawyers on a brief­ing that showed Mon­santo’s en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment was il­le­gal.

Ar­gen­tinian grass­roots leader Celina Molina said: ‘‘After more than a mil­lion Avaaz mem­bers stood with the peo­ple of Malv­inas Ar­genti­nas, we won an im­por­tant bat­tle in the fight against Mon­santo!

‘‘From gain­ing ac­cess to doc­u­ments de­nied to us by the au­thor­i­ties to run­ning a opin­ion­chang­ing poll, Avaaz was im­por­tant in pre­vent­ing the largest trans­genic seed plant from be­ing built in our back­yard.’’ PS: Lat­est from Avaaz: The first weeks pro­duced more than 12,000 sig­na­tures on the so­lar panel dis­pute – and count­ing.

The New Zealand Elec­tric­ity Au­thor­ity, an in­de­pen­dent Crown en­tity re­spon­si­ble for reg­u­la­tion of the elec­tric­ity mar­ket, has agreed to hold a dis­cus­sion at its next meet­ing (‘‘in early 2015’’) about a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on set­ting fair prices for so­lar.

A fi­nal sting in the tale: Avaaz has also pres­sured to save Amer­i­can bees threat­ened by in­sec­ti­cides – made by you know who!

Cost ef­fec­tive? Com­pa­nies are slash­ing the price they will pay new own­ers of so­lar power sys­tems who choose to sell sur­plus power from their roof-top source to con­ven­tional na­tional providers.

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