Tesla humiliates Do-nothing Australian government

From The Australian:

US tech magnate Elon Musk is so confident he can fix South Australia’s energy woes he declared Tesla will get a statewide system installed and working 100 days from signing a contract, or it’s free.

Mr Musk, who runs electric car giant Tesla, which recently merged with his solar energy outfit SolarCity, was responding to Atlassian boss Mike Cannon-Brookes who tweeted ‘Holy s#%t’ in reference to the plans.

“[SolarCity co-founder] Lyndon & @elonmusk — how serious are you about this bet? If I can make the $ happen (& politics), can you guarantee the 100MW in 100 days?,” Mr Cannon-Brookes asked.

“Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?” was the response from Mr Musk.

And there it is. That easy to fix! Of course this is a gimmick to coincide with the launch of the Tesla Powerwall 2 range yesterday but the thrust of it is right. We don’t need to go back in time to stabilise the grid with coal. Personal and industrial scale storage can do it. Solar and wind are already the cheapest levelised cost of power at the utility scale:



When it comes to adding utility scale storage as a stabiliser for intermittent power, the appropriate comparison is with the gas peaking plant above. Batteries are already competitive. Unfortunately I only have the 2015 levelised cost of storage:


But battery costs have fallen -40% since then:


My rough estimate is that utility scale battery storage is already cheaper than gas peaking plants on a levelised cost basis and it will keep falling whereas gas is going up! The Age records batteries as very cheap:

The Californian company’s energy products vice-president Lyndon Rive said it could install up to 300 megawatt hours of grid-scale battery storage in that timeframe at a cost of about $66 million per 100 megawatt hours.

“If you had storage deployed during the blackout [in] South Australia you wouldn’t have had the blackout,” Mr Rive said.

It is understood the company believes the proposal would require a change in electricity market rules, but not a direct subsidy.

Tesla is not the first to make this sort of suggestion. Zen Energy, chaired by economist Ross Garnaut, last month said its proposal for a $100 million large-scale solar plant with battery storage could solve most of South Australia’s electricity problems if rules were changed to make it viable.

Gas does, however, have the rather large advantage of already having been built, which is where the politics come in.

All of that anti-renewables Do-nothing bluster blowing in the wind.

Houses and Holes


  1. Mr Cannon-Brookes cheers on the 457 visa rort – at a time when USA is hopefully/probably going to raise the minimum salary requirement on the H1B visa to U$100k.

    Atlassian is not even based in Adelaide but he “can make the politics happen”? What about the politics of putting a $50k/year fee on each 457 visa?

      • Yeah I know. The power crisis in SA can be solved by batteries or a UHVDC transmission line from WA to NSW (via SA).

        The politicians in AUS are not only ignorant of technology but corrupt.

    • alwaysanonMEMBER

      FWIW Atlassian hires skilled people mainly from Europe when importing talent and all of them would be on more than AU$100k if not US$100k. They are not a body shop at all.

    • The better question is “why did he even keep his company in Australia?” Would have been much easier to move everything to the States in the beginning.

    • I’ve worked for Mr MCB and SF. Overall they’re great employers. I can thank my fat bank account to them. There isn’t an agenda to hire offshore vs onshore. They need that many people that fast in this region to fill roles. If the uni’s could fill it they would. I had two grads in my team, but you can only fill so many positions with juniors. On my team with two grads I had one person who I got a 457 for. And they were the only senior in the team apart from me, So yes there is a need within certain sectors of IT for some types of 457 roles.

    • Can’t make the politics happen? Did you come down in the last shower? He’s got money.

  2. Erwin Schrödinger

    Moores Law applies to batteries as well.

    We will see the equivalent of a tesla battery in your pocket in another ten years.

    Energy density is going to be transformational like computers. Consider a world where a single battery the size of a current phone battery can run your car and house for several weeks or months, can be recharged almost instantly.

    Some of the most scary applications will be in robotics (and military) where we will be able to unleash humanoid robots with huge power unconstrained by cumbersome power sources.

    • macrofishMEMBER

      Moores Law is dead in processing power no days but i hope that doesnt happen in batteries for a while to come

      • Erwin Schrödinger

        No its not. Moores law is about to undergo one of the most robust period in its entire history.

        DNA computing is already a thing and has increased storage and computational power by many factors.

        On top of this we have Quantum computing (IBM have just opened up to their first commercial customers).

        Both of these will see Moores continue for decades.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Pretty sure Moore’s Law is still holding. Keep in mind it’s about transistor density, NOT peak (or even outright) performance.

      • I remember the last 37 times Moore’s Law died.

        Related: Has anyone noticed how Australian property is the exact opposite of Moore’s Law?

    • Battery energy density increases +\-5-8%\y, ’tis not Moore’s Law. In 10 years you will have a smartphone that lasts a couple of days on a single charge, not Iron Man.

      • darklydrawlMEMBER

        Meh.. “Iron Man” is soooooo 200 years ago. Seriously, the last decent thing built of iron was the Eiffel Tower.

        I want ‘Carbon Nano-tube Woman’. Get with the program Mr J.

      • Iron Man is supposed to be some sort of gold titanium alloy, but I understand that Australian Iron Man is a different beast (regular boiler plate Fe with some O2 to boot). In any case, physics is going to keep battery energy density yearly increase in the same 5-8% threshold for a while. Han Lin´s wait for cheap graphene will be lengthy if the advances in carbon nanotubes are anythng to go by.

      • darklydrawlMEMBER

        Thanks Jason. Firstly for you good sporting nature and also your thoughts on Carbon nano tube advances. Yep, I agree there are challenges there, but less so than the giant fraud of “clean coal”. One has some potential, one is largely a marketing fabrication.

      • Sorry, Darkly if I misunderstood your initial point. I agree that battery storage technology has reached the point that it is attractive beyond the rural/bush perspective. Like roof water capture, home energy storage should be policy to increase the resilience of the network and to smooth the decarbonization. Even with the current mix, charging off-peak would result in big savings, so I guess Australia will opt-out for “clean coal” the 20th century solution to 19th century technology. At least it is not the NBN and you can do it yourself (unless they legislate the crap out of it).

      • Neville Gearless

        Batteries are about moving ions from one cell to another, the number of ions that are used in a cell’s chemical reaction are a tiny in relation to total number of ions present. The current lithium ion technology is only the tip of the iceberg. There are not dozens, not hundreds, but over 10 thousand academic papers published these last couple years alone. It is the biggest field there is in research. Current Li-ion tech maybe be hitting a wall, but there are many other chemicals ready to take over.

        Just to give you an idea how awesome the times are now for electric storage, last I read, there are currently 5 Gigafactories being planned around the world set to produce the next generation of super high density power cells, and they aren’t Lithium. The sky is the fucking limit with these things. (An yeah, Tesla’s gigafactory could be obsolete by the time it starts full production.)

        $33million for 100MW? That’s pennies, they should order half a dozen… state gov’ments don’t spend less than a BIL for infrastructure.

    • There are some physics limitations which make that unrealistic. The maximum amount of chemical energy that it is possible to store in a battery is finite, and (although I haven’t done the calculations yet) that amount of chemical energy simply cannot fit in your pocket.

      All bets are off if you are talking about nuclear though.

      • JunkyardMEMBER

        Antimatter battery 😉

        Sodium Ion is looking interesting as a stepping stone though.
        Same density but with significantly increased lifespan.

      • Erwin Schrödinger

        Graphene does not operate like chemical.

        First iteration of commerical batteries

        should have around 50-100 times the power density of comparable lithium-ion batteries and 5-10 times the energy density

    • You are totally mistaken.

      The energy density of rechargeable batteries may double or quadruple but not be 100x. Ever.

      • Erwin Schrödinger


        Graphene is an entirely new ball game. What you are talking about is akin to claiming we can never store more data than we can write down on a piece of paper.

        If we only stored out data on paper.

      • However that does not follow Moore’s Law. What you are taking about is game changer technology. Moore’s Law just apply to a technology that has potential for improvement on top of existing foundations. Therefore improvements in the technologies could be predicted using a simple function. Lithium batteries have basically stayed the same over the last two decades with minor improvements, so no doubling every 18 month is possible. Of course game changer technologies will always pop up, but those are possible to predict using a simple a simple function.

    • There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding the figures.

      Lyndon said 300 MWh in 100 days. Mike says 100 MWh.

      So how many MWh does SA import from Vic per day?

      • Powerwall 2 will be storage only with its own integrated inverter, no solar capability, so they will still have to import those MWh from the grid.

        Surely it will work as demand mitigation, but if you are going with on-grid storage you are better off using large centralised systems like the ones available from LG or Samsung.

        See my post below.

      • Erwin Schrödinger


        Joel, how about you shut up and read your own article…seriously.

        the AC Powerwall included a built-in inverter, offering customers the greatest flexibility for retrofits, standalone, back-up, or new solar without the need for an external, compatible inverter.

  3. Takes a hundred days to get a public servant to answer a letter… that’s markets and entrepreneurs for you, esp the rich ones /s

    Everyone who can is putting up solar here in Cairns. So what if no batteries, most businesses and homes with someone home run the air off the sun.

    Of course, the rest of us on the grid pay for that missing revenue.

    On topic, Musk is a showman, he has cashflow probs, but someone should take that bet. Oh yes, Do Nothing

      • Batts have to be replaced…. and as such require long time – information lines and the input – consumption of raw resources to make it viable in the long term….

        disheveled…. I do not have confidence in the entire process to deliver what it promises.

    • Meh, Forbes says Musk is worth $12.9 billion and is the #21 most influential person in the world.

      If he has a cash flow problem its only because he’s forgotten to ask his billionaire mates for bit of coin.

      • Forbes saying something is nice but they don’t lend or invest cash.
        Musk is a showman but he has business smarts.
        Selling batteries to houses is good, but re-engineering a 20th century power grid is something he can take globally, and will only be done once, so he wants to be the one doing it.
        So he needs successful showpiece projects to convince governments that batteries are the solution to grid volatility at a state or national grid level. And once he’s in then he’s in the box seat to maintain and replace over the long term, which is a nice income stream.
        And SA is a motivated government that want to fix their power issues enough to clear a path through planning and local obstacles to get it done.
        So Musk is going for a big prize here, wouldn’t want to stuff it up though.

  4. Posted this in other thread.

    Powerwall 2 will be AC only, meaning it cannot integrate directly with solar panels. It can run as on-grid storage only.


    It also seems it is running late, which is quite common for Tesla stuff. Consider how many have put deposits in for Model 3, which is listed for late may delivery, while it admitted it doesn’t even have a Beta prototype yet.


    • Erwin Schrödinger

      Literally – none of that is true.

      Powerwall 2 will be AC only, meaning it cannot integrate directly with solar panels. It can run as on-grid storage only.

      There are no words for this crap. From your own linked article

      the AC Powerwall included a built-in inverter, offering customers the greatest flexibility for retrofits, standalone, back-up, or new solar without the need for an external, compatible inverter.

      As for the model 3 – that entire article is claiming there is no Beta prototype, yet the actual quote referenced for this absurd claim clearly states there are MULTIPLE candidates for the successful prototype being tested before a decision is made. So, no – there is not ONE beta – there are several. How utterly risible.

      2017 Tesla Model 3: Production confirmed to begin in July

      Good luck with your spurious bullshit.

      • They are trying to be clever with their definitions, and using software development terms where they don’t necessarily apply. If the engineering team is testing the car, technically it’s alpha testing. That doesn’t mean it isn’t ready for release.

      • The AC inverter integrated on the powerwall 2 prevents it from being connected directly to solar panels. This means you would need a separate solar inverter to covert solar DC to AC to connect to the PW2.

        Granted it does allow the unit to be installed on houses which already have solar or in cases where solar is not viable as purely storage. Hypothetically you could put one in the balcony of your units as you seem to enjoy throwing good money after bad.

        I am not making shit up when I say their gear is nowhere near as good as it looks on screen. They work in a vacuum, as components. I know of trials happening of their large scale energy storage system and they are having major problems integrating it and the big corporate paying for it is pulling the plug in favour of other suppliers. There is a big NDA in place so fictional genius Musk won’t lose face.

        No bone from me either way. I am the guy who gets handsomely paid to fix the mess made by ivory tower technology enthusiasts with no grasp of the real world.

        By the way, how’s your cat?

      • @Joel…

        Absolutely – !!!! – having spent way to much time trouble shooting epic stuff ups due to some sorts consuming their own BS…..

        disheveled…. Popular Science mag level hopium…. still awaiting the flying car….

      • @ Joel

        “The AC inverter integrated on the powerwall 2 prevents it from being connected directly to solar panels. This means you would need a separate solar inverter to covert solar DC to AC to connect to the PW2.”

        Would please share the source of this?

        from below I did not come to the same conclusion
        “The only difference is that the AC Powerwall included a built-in inverter, offering customers the greatest flexibility for retrofits, standalone, back-up, or new solar without the need for an external, compatible inverter. The DC Powerwall would only be used for customers who already had an existing compatible inverter and therefore didn’t need an integrated inverter.”

  5. How many days do the batteries last and what is the cost of the fossil fuel backup for when the sun hasnt shone for 2 or more days?

    • If they are like the current car batteries, the charge depletes at about 8-10% a day if not used.

      • Ironically, lead-acid batteries appear to be the most cost-effective grid-level battery storage solution at the moment. Maybe that will change if Tesla achieves sufficient economies of scale with Li-ion. There’s also mechanical storage. For some (totally unsubstantiated) reason, I have a feeling mech energy storage (e.g. pumped-hydro, little trains that carry bricks up a hill etc.) will end up playing a big part in grid-level storage…

    • Erwin Schrödinger

      Can you point me to these apocalyptic moments when we have total solar eclipses for several days at a time and the sun does not shine.

      Unless of course you are literally saying Solar doesn’t work when its cloudy – which would be highly amusing stuff………wait……..are you saying that ?

  6. I’ve seen those Lazard costs before. They’re insane, and I’d suggest using them with caution (or not at all). Among others, here are some of the things that are ‘not accounted for’:

    – capacity value vs. energy value (i.e. they’re just assuming peak utilisation at all times, which is nuts and very clearly not the case with intermittent renewables – otherwise Germany and ‘re-commissioning’ some of their old coal plants for no good reason)

    – costs related to distributed generation, congestion costs (? land?)

    – waste disposal (this includes nuclear)

    – intermittency and back-up generation costs (e.g. costs of energy storage, costs of intermittent gas peaker usage)

    – transmission costs (which get substantially larger in distributed and intermittent scenarios)

    – environmental externalities (e.g. air pollution, resource mining etc.)

    – system balancing costs (e.g. energy storage and transmission infrastructure to avoid having constant random brownouts)

    – PV generation assumed to all be in US Southwest

    And so on…. It’s hard to draw any sensible conclusions from that analysis, given the assumptions made. They’re even assuming piston engines will be used for gas and diesel plants that are sized to produce ~5000 GWh/yr. For reference, ~80% of the world’s electricity is produced by steam turbines (not piston engines).

      • These are probably the best out there at the moment. They are US centric yes, but they are relevant enough for Aus market.

        I would use an extra pinch of salt for storage numbers which usually assume very high utilisation, which is not relevant to network support or peaker services.

        Battery storage for that purpose is not there yet without subsidy. Otherwise it would already be in the market.

      • It’s a rather tricky issue, in fairness to Lazard. I’d also assume that some things were excluded (e.g. transmission infrastructure) simply because it’s not as relevant to private investment decisions (although it’s obviously relevant in the public sense given someone must pay). It’s even trickier to point to a canonical source on comparable generation costs, because they’re so incredibly sensitive to the assumptions made, and it has become a very politicised issue (making it hard to trust any assessment).

        I know some will scoff at this, but wikipedia provide a very good overview of the various methods and attempts and comparing electricity generation costs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source . There are also some good references in there. Just to pick a few out for you (but it’s worth taking a look yourself.. perhaps I’m a coal industry shill…):

        – European Commission Externe report (https://ec.europa.eu/research/energy/pdf/kina_en.pdf) – It’s pretty old now (2005) but is the most credible source I know of that attempts to estimate negative externality costs of various forms of power generation. There’s also a bunch of later studies that derive calculations from this report (e.g. deaths per Tw/hr produced… coal is by far the worst and that’s not even accounting for climate change).

        – “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air”: a really accessible online book (free!) that goes through every major form of energy generation and discusses the pros and cons. Aimed at the “informed layman”, has a British perspective (http://www.withouthotair.com/Contents.html). If you want to cut right to it, it outlines 5 possible energy generation plans for the UK under various constraints (e.g. no nuclear, lots of NIMBY, no coal etc.). Here’s the direct link to the comparison page at the end of the chapter: http://www.withouthotair.com/c27/page_212.shtml

        – This 2013 Fraunhofer Institute study looks like a reasonable attempt at calculating LCOE while accounting for intermittency etc. It’s a shame it doesn’t include an examination of nuclear LCOE (which I’m guessing would have been pointless in the German political context). – https://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/content/dam/ise/en/documents/publications/studies/Fraunhofer-ISE_LCOE_Renewable_Energy_technologies.pdf

        – The 2015 International Energy Agency (which I believe is an OECD initiative) electricity cost report. It should be noted that they have been criticised from various quarters as having a bias for ‘traditional’ forms of energy generation and relying on misleading data (although I haven’t seen anything particularly specific). Also worth noting the report is written in partnership with the Nuclear Energy Agency (also an OECD ‘subsidiary’), so take that for what you will – http://www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/ElecCost2015SUM.pdf

        For my money, I quite like the ‘Without hot air’ book. It strikes me as a fairly sobre and even handed analysis, and just a good general introduction to the pros and cons of various forms of energy generation. Hope that helps.

      • So…. any chance of my comment getting out of the moderation queue today? I kinda feel like I shouldn’t have bothered, since pretty much no-one will see it at this point.

  7. I still think we can do this with a bit of legislation:
    – All houses with a $1mil expected sale price must be sold with Solar & Battery
    – All houses with a $600k expected sale price must be sold with Solar. Add battery in 5 years.
    – Stop subsidising pensioners approx $200 for power bills, instead cover cost of 1.5kw Solar system instead.
    – Allow retailers to charge based on demand.
    – Allow retailers to pay a premium for feed in tariff based on demand.

    We distribute the batteries throughout Australia and use house sales to pay for it.

  8. Sorry all but the resources necessary to support this tech is not viable in the long term, think fracking, hence huge amounts of capital will be expended with some financial gain for a small group and everyone else holding the bag…

    Disheveled…. not to mention the neoliberal bottle neck monopoly some are attempting to establish to extract rents off the whole endeavor and would not even get off the ground without huge government support….

    • Skippy, have you been on the p!ss tonight? What does all this mean? Why are batteries like fracking? What the hell are you talking about?

      • Fracking wrt to water and other environmental dramas……

        diseveled…. knee jerks all around…. chortle…

  9. Thats a bollocks cost on geothermal! Conventional geothermal is the cheapest power source known to man! Total and utter bollocks…

    BTW – those gas costs are bollocks too – where are they basing those from???

  10. Us AGW sceptics have managed to pin this whole crisis on renewables in the mind of the public. So much fun to watch the renewables dream dying.

    Can we now start a real conversation about how we move to a low-emission economy over 50 years. There are three key solutions we must consider they are Nuclear, Nuclear and lastly Nuclear

    • Are you joking?

      The exact opposite of what you said is happening.

      Renewables are winning in the face of laughable LNP “clean coal”, blaming renewables etc. No-one but die-hard climate denialists are buying what this government is selling.

  11. This article is absolute is a nonsense.

    In the real world, the countries in Europe that have the most fake Renewable Energy have the highest cost electricity. See chart in link:

    “Green Mythology and the High Price of European Electricity”


    The batteries that would be required to cover a period of a few days or weeks of no sun and no wind would be gigantic.

    In Germany, they had no sun and no wind for 10 days in December. In January, they had two periods of 5 days each with not RE. You can check it out at this website for any date in the recent past. Right now at this minute, they have no solar PV and 10 gigawatts of wind. Their installed capacity is 30 gigawatts of wind which mean that they are only producing 33% of their wind capacity. Their installed solar PV is 20 gigawatts which means that it is producing 0% of its rated capacity. Furthermore, the wind is all in the north of the country and the shortage is in the south – with a very limited connection.

    “Electricity production in Germany in week 10 2017”


    Batteries, to keep working over many cycles, cannot be fully charged or fully discharged. When it is too hot (Australia) batteries need to be kept cool – which needs energy. When it is too cold (Europe) batteries need to be kept warm. A bit like Goldilocks.

    The plain fact is that to operate RE safely, you need an equivalent amount of fossil-fuel generation – nuclear is of no use as it cannot be ramped up and down. Please adjust your costs above to reflect this reality and stop deceiving your non-technical readers.

    Batteries are a fake “solution” as they solve the wrong problem.