Finance Finance News Elon Musk bets millions on fixing South Australia’s energy problems in just 100 days

Elon Musk bets millions on fixing South Australia’s energy problems in just 100 days

elon musk tesla
The genius tech magnate is renowned for bold gambles. Photo: Getty
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Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has given a money-back guarantee to South Australia that he can fix the state’s energy troubles within 100 days using battery technology.

“Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?” Mr Musk wrote on Twitter on Friday afternoon, Australian time.

He was responding to a Twitter user who asked “how serious” Tesla really was about solving the state’s problems.

The Australian Financial Review reported on Friday, quoting the head of the company’s battery division, that Tesla could install between 100 and 300 megawatt hours-worth of batteries in the state within 100 days.

elon musk tweet south australia

The Twitter user was Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of software company Atlassian. When Mr Musk confirmed he was serious, Mr Cannon-Brookes appeared to accept the bet, replying: “Legend! You’re on mate. Give me seven days to try sort out politics and funding.”

The batteries alone would cost about $200 million, not including land and labour, Mr Cannon-Brookes told the AFR.

A spokesperson for Jay Weatherill told the ABC the Premier was in discussions with Tesla and Atlassian regarding power matters.

He said Mr Weatherill was keen to discuss the matter and was “certainly not ruling it out”.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly said the state’s blackouts have been caused by an overly hasty transition from coal to “less reliable” renewable energy sources, and that these supply problems could be solved with battery technology.

Tesla’s confidence is grounded in the fact it has stepped up production at a new lithium-ion battery factory in Sparks, Nevada, USA.

Last year, Mr Turnbull described the improvement in battery technology as a “big game-changer” for renewables. “[W]hat we’re starting to see now is affordable storage, which has always been the problem with intermittent renewables,” he said.

Australia’s chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, who is currently conducting a review of recent power outages in SA, has also backed battery technology as a way of ensuring renewables can be incorporated into the current energy system.

tesla battery
Tesla unveiled its new, heavy-duty ‘Powerpack’ battery system in 2015. This is presumably the same technology that the company would use in South Australia. Photo: Getty

“[I]t’s critically important that we reduce our emissions. The best way to do that is with zero emission electricity generation,” Dr Finkel said last year.

“What is out there? Solar is fantastic, especially if, as the Prime Minister said, we can solve the problems of storage and there are effective moves happening in batteries, in pumped hydroelectric storage.

“So if we can massively increase the volume and lower price point of storage, then solar becomes marvellously viable, as does wind.”

Thousands of South Australian properties lost power in early February after the Australian Energy Market Operator ordered “load shedding” when demand spiked and generation dropped — the latest in a string of blackouts.

Whether or not he funds the batteries, Mr Cannon-Brookes is certainly no fan of the Turnbull government’s other proposals.

“We don’t need more gas peaker plants or ridiculous ‘clean coal’,” he wrote on Twitter. “Let’s solve it with software and innovation.”

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