Elon Musk Vs. The Electric Bill: Australians Pay $1,000 A Month And Puerto Rico Wants Power [Opinion]

Elon Musk CEO of Tesla

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Corporation, wept when he learned many Australians are unable to pay their electric bills, some of which are around $1,000 a month. Electric service should not be a luxury, and it should not cost that much says Musk, but a 60 Minutes reporter in Australia told Musk Australians were unable to pay the cost. Elon’s chin trembled with emotion as he thought of the people unable to afford the basic comfort of electric service.

Tesla founder Elon Musk vowed to do more in the video below.

“We’ll try harder.”

Elon Musk teared up at the thought of Australians unable to pay their electric bills and having their electric service disconnected. In most areas of Australia, more than twice as many Australians had their electric service cut off this year because the electric bill was too high than in previous years.

Elon Musk appears to genuinely care about ordinary Australian people struggling to pay their electric bills. Elon and Tesla care not only about the people of Australia but also the people of Puerto Rico, most of whom have been without electric service since Hurricane Marie destroyed Puerto Rico’s electric grid two months ago.

While in Australia electric service has become unaffordable to an increasing number of Australians, Puerto Rico has no electric service available at any cost. Only 25 percent of Puerto Rico has access to electric service, and it’s been that way for a full two months after Hurricane Marie devastated the island.

Elon Musk wants Tesla to be part of the solution in Puerto Rico as well as in Australia. Still, governments and political systems can be resistant to new ideas like Tesla lithium-ion batteries. Elon Musk’s proposals are the subject of political debates in both Australia and Puerto Rico.

Elon Musk’s Tesla battery systems are competing against more traditional solutions already in place but increasingly inadequate in Australia. In Puerto Rico however, Tesla would be starting over completely.

Elon Musk is quoted on the Big Think explaining that Tesla is eager to help and has already provided electricity to a children’s hospital, Hospital del Niño, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but the extent Tesla is allowed to help will be determined by Puerto Rico’s government.

“The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the [Puerto Rican government, ] PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of [Puerto Rico.]”

Elon Musk has donated some of his own money and pushed the announcement of the Tesla electric semi-truck back to November in order to focus on restoring electric service to Puerto Rico. Tesla is shipping Powerwalls for individual homes but also working on a variety of electric grid projects similar to the one at the children’s hospital.

Elon Musk wants to do more for Puerto Rico and Australia through Tesla’s systems, but will governments allow him to fulfill his vision for Puerto Rico and Australia?

Elon Musk CEO of Tesla and Space X

Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello asked for Elon Musk’s aid and said their initial conversation went well. Puerto Rico’s old electrical system was more than 50-years-old. Now it has washed out to sea, according to the Big Think, and a new electric grid must be built. Why not use renewable energy suggests Tesla’s Elon Musk?

Elon Musk wants to use Puerto Rico as a model for what Tesla solar and lithium-ion storage systems can do. Elon Musk would also like to do the same in Australia. Each area has different problems, but as Elon Musk is learning in Australia, the political situation can be far more complex than the technical aspects.

While Elon Musk works to reduce costs and prevent blackouts in Australia, elements within the Australian government are mocking him. They say the world’s biggest battery is dwarfed by the demand for electric service in Australia.

Elon Musk is already building the world’s largest battery in Australia, but the Australian government officials point out it isn’t enough to fix the problem. Elon Musk has vowed to complete the giant battery along with a wind and solar array in 100 days or it’s free.

Australian Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg is quoted in the Daily Mail explaining Elon Musk’s giant battery isn’t as powerful as one of their current Hydro Electric plants.

“Elon Musk’s battery was a fraction of the size of the Snowy Hydro Scheme. It was sold to the people of South Australia by Jay Weatherill as an answer to their woes, whereas in reality, it’s just a fraction of what that state needs.”

While this single battery storage facility will reduce the average cost by about $115 dollars per year, obviously much more needs to be done. Elon Musk says Tesla is up to the challenge and wants an opportunity to prove his systems can work on a large scale.

Perhaps Elon Musk’s immediate solution to Australia’s electric grid troubles and Puerto Rico’s as well lies in his small Tesla Powerwall residential units. According to the Daily Mail, Michael and Melissa Powney of Australia recently installed Tesla’s Powerwall home unit lithium-ion battery and some solar panels. Now, they are sending electricity back into the grid, earning $32 this month instead of paying $1,000.

Tesla Ion Battery Powerwall

Elon Musk has also offered to get Puerto Rico’s lights back on if Puerto Rico’s government will trust Tesla to do so. In the meantime, Elon Musk is making his Tesla Powerwall units available in Puerto Rico as well.

Elon Musk wants to prove the scalability of Tesla’s lithium-ion battery solutions when coupled with wind and solar. Elon Musk looks to a future when non-renewable energy runs out.

“We will have the choice of the collapse of civilization and into the dark ages we go or we find something renewable.”

In Australia, Elon Musk argues electric service should be far cheaper than it is. Why are Australians paying such high electric bills, to begin with? Australia has plenty of natural resources and Elon Musk says there is no reason electric service should be so expensive, even using traditional, non-renewable energy sources.

Is Elon Musk suggesting the existing electric company is price gouging since the blackout? Is resistance to Elon Musk’s Tesla lithium-ion batteries a resistance to changing a profitable status quo. Obviously, people cannot continue to pay over $1,000 a month in electric bills, so in yet another sense of the word, the current solution isn’t sustainable.


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Elon Musk is offering a helping hand, and both Australia and Puerto Rico might be wise to accept it.

[Featured Image by Chris Pizzello/AP Images]