Elon Musk in tears as he warns of energy crisis 'dark ages'

Elon Musk's reputation is on the line with the energy deadline looming. Source: Getty Images

Tesla CEO and product architect Elon Musk made headlines in 2017 when he stepped up to the plate and faced off against the South Australian energy crisis. But while Tesla works to keep Musk’s promise of providing a the world’s most powerful lithium-ion battery, Australians are still struggling with the high energy prices on a daily basis. 

In a 60 Minutes interview, Musk spoke to Liz Hayes about the future of renewable energy, and pointed out that Australia has so much potential to create wind, solar, wave and geothermal power that it could not only solve its energy crisis, but also “export power to Asia”. 

“There’s so much land there you could actually power a significant chunk of Asia,” Musk said.

“It’s a definition that if it’s not renewable, it’s going to run out at some point. And we will have the choice of the collapse of civilisation and into the dark ages we go, or we find something renewable.” 

But the possibility of powering Asia is far from the public’s mind, and Musk was shocked when Hayes told him that some Australians are having to choose between buying food and being able to pay for their electricity bills. 

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“I did not expect that,” Musk admitted. He looked close to tears, and his chin began to quiver before he composed himself. “We’ll work harder.” 

A pensioner interviewed in the segment revealed that he and his wife hadn’t turned on the heater throughout the winter months; instead, they’d bundled up with extra layers in an attempt to keep energy prices down. 

“It feels like survival rather than living,” the man said. “It seems strange that life is becoming harder as we get older.” 

Many Australian families are dealing with the same issue, but the plight of the elderly is particularly concerning as summer approaches. With sweltering temperatures on the horizon, there is a very real risk that those who are too scared to turn on their air-conditioning may succumb to heat-related illnesses. 

Read more: Billionaire Elon Musk announces plans to colonise Mars

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Australian treasurer Scott Morrison has called Elon Musk a “shiny distraction” and cast doubt upon the efficiency of Tesla’s promised super-battery. 

“We get that all the time,” Musk said, though he admitted that he hadn’t realised there was such political uproar about his energy promise. “It can be a little disheartening sometimes.” 

In contrast, the government’s proposal to improve energy prices for Australians comes with the National Energy Guarantee. Under this scheme, Australian families could save “up to $115 a year” according to MP Josh Frydenberg. However, with power bills continuing to soar, a saving that equates to about 30 cents a day isn’t impressing anyone. 

Read more: Billionaire tech genius thinks he has the solution to the Australian energy crisis

Paul Italiano, TransGrid CEO, was also interviewed for the segment, and he, like Elon Musk, believes that renewable energy is the key to Australia’s future. 

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“The amount of sun, wind and wave energy available to us is the envy of the world,” Italiano said. 

Musk’s promise to provide the super battery came about in March, after an article published in the Financial Review stated that Tesla believed the project could be completed within 100 days of signing the contract. Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes wanted to know whether it was all a joke. 

“How serious are you about this bet?” Cannon-Brookes, co-CEO of software company Atlassian, wrote on Twitter. “If I can make the $ happen (& politics), can you guarantee the 100MW in 100 days?” [sic]

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

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The contract was signed on September 29, and the countdown is now on to see if Musk can live up to his promise. 

Do you think Australia should be using more renewable energy?