Rise with the sun

17:00, Jul 19 2014
Brendan Winitana
SHINING EXAMPLE: Brendan Winitana is head of the Sustainable Energy Association of New Zealand.

Solar power is a "sunrise" industry bursting with promise for a sun-rich country like New Zealand where people pay a ridiculous amount for electricity, says Brendan Winitana, chief executive of the Sustainable Energy Association of New Zealand.

Winitana says money gives you options in life and investing in solar power is a way of saving a small fortune, which is why he's planning to sell his home and move to somewhere less shady where he can install solar panels.

Rate your own financial literacy on a scale of one to 10.

It's around a seven at the moment but it's a moving target as there is always heaps to learn, understand and apply.

Where did you learn the money smarts you have?

I was fortunate in that my parents taught me about pursuing goals and living life to its fullest. A key goal was getting into business in a new sunrise industry so at a very young age I acquired an interest and directorship in the business that had employed me for a year. Several of the directors saw something there! It was a baptism of fire when I look back at it now but it enabled me to understand the immense value in and behind the numbers. I was also involved in a leading edge IT tech development which I developed from my concept to commercialisation to implementation over several years, including selling the thing to a Japanese corporate. This taught me a heap more about financial matters.


How did your upbringing shape your attitude to money?

Coming from a typical Kiwi family of Maori descent in a small community meant that there were challenges growing up. You come to understand the value of stuff when you don't have it or you have too much of it in all aspects of life.

What's the most important money advice you were ever given?

It's a simple adage - money gives you options in life.

What brought you your first payday?

I figured out how I could go to university and work concurrently. That was working for a government agency which paid me to go to university which was pretty cool way back then. My first major pay day came from transactional commission selling before I bought a chunk of the business.

Do you remember what you did with the cash?

The major pay day allowed me to invest in property.

KiwiSaver: Are you in it? Why?

Yes I am. Why? because it's a good thing to do to lead by example. All forms of effective saving are important irrespective of form.

Would Labour be right to make KiwiSaver compulsory?

No, because individuals need to make that decision based on their own circumstances.

What's been your best investment?

Property in Auckland.

And the worst?

In a small niche business in IT. The timing was wrong.

How have your attitudes to money changed over time?

An economic base is a fundamental necessity for tomorrow. So if anything I'm a tad more risk averse these days which is to be expected.

Solar in New Zealand used to mean solar hot water heating, which didn't always seem to save people money. What's solar in New Zealand now?

Solar is about generating your own electricity using a never ending free and clean resource - the sun. It's a multi-faceted technology from the commonly seen arrays on a roof to building integrated technology where roofs, canopies and windows are generating power. Solar enables consumers to manage their own power generation and demand.

Would it pay everyone to have solar?

No, not necessarily, for many reasons ranging from suitability of the site/property to cost effectiveness versus buying power off the grid which is city/town dependent to solar radiation availability to name a few.

Do you have solar? If not, why not, and when will it happen?

I don't have solar on my residential property because of the site. Unfortunately the position and pitch of the roof are not ideal to maximise output and tree shading around the whole house is a real issue. However, the economics are good as we pay a ridiculous amount for power from the grid. We already have plans to sell this property and find another where we can install building integrated solar in Auckland.

What does it cost to put solar on the roof nowadays?

It's a competitive industry. We recommend consumers do their research and engage a reputable supplier/integrator who provides tier one products. The average cost of such today is about $3250 per 1kWp (kilowatt peak) system installed based on SEANZ survey results. For an average size house about $10,000 for a 3kWp could provide about 60 to 65 per cent of demand.

Are you a collector? If so what, and why do you do it?

No I'm not a collector of anything, but I do value stuff.

Do you like to gamble?

No I am not a gambler at all.

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