Waitati School turned on the sun in 2018

The pioneering Waitati school in Blueskin Bay (in the South Island of New Zealand) is at the forefront of a global $1.3 trillion energy system transformation. While others debate how to share local green power, Waitati School, with funding from Harper Collins and assistance from the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust, has made decentralised and decarbonised power a reality.

Gareth Hughes MP officially opened this exciting new community solar initiative on the 19th of October 2018. The school uses the Blueskin Energy Network to share surplus solar power with school families who subscribe to buy it. In Gareth’s words, “this pioneering project is yet another innovation from the community of Blueskin and the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust in collaboration with the school and partners. The Blueskin model should inspire others to be bold as innovators and changemakers and motivate government to do more”.

Waitati school’s solar array is installed where it is most cost effective or efficient to be located and where it will often be efficiently used (as kids are at school during the day). Anyone can now buy local green power in this community – regardless of whether they can afford panels themselves or own their own homes. They can now subscribe to join the school’s peer to peer scheme and get cheaper local power when there is a surplus (such as in the holidays, in the weekends or when the school day ends – ideal times for hard pressed families who need affordable power). Local consumers support the school by buying the school’s power. Principal Stacey Honeywill sees the sharing component as a positive for the school community.  “It is great that we can provide cheaper power to the community when we are not using it and the the school will benefit from the sale of the power.”

This is the face of the sharing energy community.

Waitati School Gareth Hughes Plaque 181019.jpg

BEN is helping prepare for the wild ride ahead


In this article, BEN's Scott Willis explains how the Blueskin Energy Network is designed to aid the transition to a fully renewable and resilient electricity system able to bounce back from adverse events. In other words, become part of a community scale emergency kit now that we have entered the Long Emergency.

He argues that BEN provides more than just affordable local power and is useful in a couple of other ways as well: "Firstly, it could mean the lights temporarily stay on in a significant emergency if the main electricity network is knocked out. Secondly, if we create micro-grids incorporating local renewable electricity generation, we can reboot the main grid if ever there is a full blackout, by restarting incrementally".

Democratising our electricity: BEN workshop in Waitati

BEN was part of TechWeekNZ last month and we held a very enjoyable interactive workshop with great participation in the Waitati Hall on the 24th of May. A big thanks to all the folks that came out on a cold night and made time to participate in the workshop and share insights.

That really did help our thinking on what should be next in the "development" queue to increase community and household value. First out of the gates will be a night rate. We're excited by the interest and engagement in democratising electricity and feedback from residents who want control to positively impact the environment, their budget and our community.



BEN’s soft launch was in December 2017 and today, 6th April, we connected our first customers to the Blueskin Energy Network! This is what Hilary said: “By selling our power locally we can get around being paid a meagre 8c per unit of power we generate and can share our power with our neighbours. So it is a big win/win”. 

Not only will Hilary get a better rate and the confidence we are helping our neighbours share in this power, but those without solar PV get to buy her local, green electricity at a lower price than traditional grid power – so this really is a “big win/win”.

We’re as excited as Hilary and other residents passionate about local renewables and taking control of their power to democratize our energy system, starting with cleaner, affordable local power to increase community resilience.



The Blueskin Wind Turbine initiative and the challenge of establishing community renewables was discussed on RNZ's Nine to Noon programme recently.

There was a good scoping of the challenges of democratizing our electricity sector through community wind in a carbon constrained world. 

Thankfully the Blueskin Energy Network offers the ability to locally "share" solar power, other local renewable generation and everyone’s ability to change how or when they use electricity for the benefit of the community in a smart grid!



In 2015, P2 Power became one of the world’s first peer to peer electricity retailers. In 2017  P2 joined with Blueskin Energy Ltd to form BEN. But already by February 2018, the 200 participants in P2’s solar energy exchange have achieved a significant milestone... The future is bright for community renewables, especially now you don’t need your own panels to benefit!

With 100,000kWh solar energy shared since the programme first launched in April 2016. That’s enough clean, green, local energy to make around five million cups of tea or power over 100 houses for a month!