Solar advocates in New Zealand are facing many of the same challenges that advocates in California are, how to promote solar energy and bring down the cost at the same time. More than 22,000 homes in New Zealand have solar thermal systems for hot water heating, according to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).Wellington, New Zealand – September 8, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The government organization has also set a goal of getting solar thermal installations on 10,000 homes per year. Meeting that goal will be easier if more people understand the need for solar as a renewable energy source, according to Chief Executive of the EECA Heather Staley. But the Green Party says reducing the price of installations is equally as important to the cause. Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says the cost of installing solar panels could be reduced by either negotiating with or requiring banks to provide ‘solar mortgages’ where families can borrow more to build a house with solar water heating because the electricity savings will ensure a way of paying it back. The Greens would also like to see solar installations for all suitable public sector buildings over a five-year period. This could provide economies of scale for the industry and ensure there would be sufficient trained installers to do the work competently. “The public sector should be taking the lead by installing solar panels on suitable buildings such as hospitals, state houses, prisons and schools,” said Fitzsimons. “The Greens have been promoting solar energy for years as a more cost-effective and sustainable way of heating our water than electricity, so it’s very encouraging to see the Energy Minister commit to solar heating. However, he needs to widen his goal from just 10,000 systems being installed on new homes every year.” Both organizations can definitely agree that the solar industry needs a boost in the country. Water heating consumes up to 45 percent of household electricity, according to the EECA. The government has allocated approximately NZD 400,000 (US$ 257,000) in grants to promote solar heating, and installations can save a household $350 to $450 every year. “Solar heating makes sense in terms of saving money, saving our environment and saving people the agony of a cold shower every time a power company is forced to switch the hot water off,” said Fitzsimons.