Some unwelcome good news

The announcement by Tesla of a new home battery storage system, called Powerwall, costing $3500 for 10KwH of storage, has been greeted with enthusiasm, but also a good deal of scepticism regarding its commercial viability, which depends in any given market on such things as the gap between retail electricity prices feed-in tariffs for solar PV.

This is missing the forest for the trees, however. Assuming the Tesla system comes anywhere near meeting its announced specifications, and noting that electric cars are also on the market from Tesla and others, we now have just about everything we need for a technological fix for climate change, based on a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency, at a cost that’s a small fraction of global income (and hence a small fraction of national income for any country) .

That’s something hardly anyone expected (certainly not me) a decade ago. And, given how strongly people are attached to their opinions, and especially their public commitments, there is bound to be a lot of resistance to this conclusion. Based on the evidence available a decade ago, people drew some of the following conclusions:

(a) decarbonizing the energy sector will require radical economic changes which will entail the end of industrial society/capitalism as we know it
(b) conclusion (a) is true and therefore climate change must be an enviro-socialist hoax
(c) any solution must involve a return to nuclear power on a massive scale
(d) any solution must involve the development and deployment of a “clean coal” technology
(e) a market-based solution will require a very high carbon price, say $100/tonne

I was in group (e), and was still talking about prices up to $100/tonne as recently as 2012. But it’s easy to revise a price number downwards in the light of technological change, much harder to revise strongly held and publicly stated conclusions like (a)-(d).

So, I’m not going to bother trying to demonstrate the assertion that a technological fix is now possible – from past experience, demonstrations of such points are futile. Rather, I’m going to spend some time thinking about the implications for the next round of global climate policy, and what constructive contributions I can make to getting Australia back on tract.

119 thoughts on “Some unwelcome good news

  1. I was in group (a). I am now in group (f). There are other possibilities you have not canvassed. There are several other biosphere limits which will present serious challenges. I am not saying these challenges are insurmountable. I am saying they are still of serious concern.

  2. We also learned this year that CO2 emissions may have decoupled from growth, which is a good sign. I also saw a recent report of a new technology to produce diesel from sunlight, air and water (carbon neutral diesel!) which could lead to carbon neutral shipping.

    i was never in group a) but I still don’t believe little technological fixes and a carbon price alone are enough – we are still going to need serious legislation and significant intervention in markets to achieve our goals. Full electrification of homes is a good start but it won’t solve the problems in concrete, aviation and agriculture … but the news this year is promising (even if the temperatures are not!)

  3. The techno-optimist in me is pleased that technological change has come to the rescue again, but the moralist is me is disappointed that threat of climate change hasn’t forced a significant change in the socio-eco-political system. Ah well. Santa claus doesn’t always give us what we want.

  4. So will this allow you to go off grid?

    A typical 4 person household uses ~20KwH per day. Assuming you use rooftop solar you should be able to produce your daily needs with a 3Kw system, and the battery will look after night time use.

    But that does not taken into account bad weather. So maybe its not enough.

    Nor does it take into account greater energy efficiency, which will push things in the other direction.

    Mind you, if you live in a remote location and currently use a diesel generator for your power, I’m thinking this looks pretty attractive.

  5. Thanks Prof John.

    I was and remain in group a. Although a shift to electric transport away from liquid fuelled transport is a significant improvement (because electricity in principle can be generated renewably), carbon is not the only element at hazard. Reportedly world global production of zinc fell 300,000 t short of demand last year; and there are no major new zinc mines in the pipeline. Peak copper would be not more than a couple of decades away, if current trends in growth were to continue (which they won’t). Society can knock over one bottleneck after another, but so long as the policy imperative remains for expansion under debt-fuelled capitalism, technology can do only so much.

    (As an aside, neoclassical economics, in holding that societies can be modelled by aggregating individual transactions, downplays the existence of economies of scale. The trend to home-based solar systems bothers me somewhat because the diseconomies of scale in having every house power itself with all that zinc, copper, lead, steel, aluminium, silicon whatever flies in the face of the economies of scale that are achieved by a grid. Indeed, economies of scale are so important, that the state took over the task of establishing a general grid and did not leave it to local generators. I haven’t seen much analysis of this problem and would like to see some balance sheets that tally the energy and materials expended in setting up a home-based system (and perhaps replacing it in 20 years’ time) compared with similar statistics for a centralised plant).

    Arguing in a different direction, given that transport becomes necessary when people or goods are separated from where they are wanted, the best solution is to localise so that supply lines are short as possible. This cannot be done without radical restructure of the current economy.

    The mainstream media (notably Murdoch) errs by jumping to conclusion b in the light of the inconvenience of a. Solutions c and d are seized upon in an attempt to shore up response b and prove the greenies wrong. This agenda is almost all ideological (although some credible scientists still support solution c).

  6. @Geoff Edwards

    “The trend to home-based solar systems bothers me somewhat because the diseconomies of scale in having every house power itself with all that zinc, copper, lead, steel, aluminium, silicon whatever flies in the face of the economies of scale that are achieved by a grid.”

    That’s an interesting issue. It might not be so simple as an economies-of-scale argument. Take the case of hot water first and then we will get back to the case of electricity. In theory, in a very high density urban area, it might be cheaper to heat water centrally and pipe it to each dwelling or at least to do this centrally in each unit block and pipe hot water to each dwelling in a block of units. In practice, with less dense living, transmission losses (water cooling as it is piped at distance) mean that it is very likely more efficient to generate hot water at each site, especially when using free fuel (sunlight).

    With solar power, there would also be a “density-cutover” if I can call it that. At a certain sparseness of population, it would be cheaper (and take less materials) to have solar generation at each house rather than long transmission lines (and power losses along the way) to get the power there.

    In addition, even an urban grid system could gain benefits from being a hybrid grid with both macro and micro producers of power. It would take a while to draw out all the possibilities and I would only be speculating. One can see certainly see reliability improvements in a hybrid grid by having household back-up for blackouts.

    One has to ask too, do we always go for economies of scale? Communal cooking would be more efficient than household cooking (at least in some senses). Do you know any suburban communities who have given up home kitchens and set up a community cook-house? There may be some of course but they would be rare in suburbia. The community eateries we call “restaurants” are dearer to eat at than eating at home. Why don’t economies of scale work there? I can think of some reasons; for example, our labour is free at home and restaurants charge a convenience premium and even a snobbery premium.

    I am no economist. I guess many other issues (other than simple economies of scale) affect these issues.

  7. Given Elon Musk’s track record everywhere else, this storage tech is likely to work sooner rather than later.

    It’ll be interesting to see in the Land of the Free, how the existing power companies react. No doubt even though business always bemoans government regulation and “red tape”, you can bet they’ll be quick to call on legislative protection for their businesses (as Musk has found with trying to market his Tesla cars direct to the public).

  8. I have no doubt that future technology can replace coal-fired power and petrol internal combustion engines in developed economies.

    But, to impact on CO2 concentrations it needs to distributed all through Asia, Africa, and South America.

    How is this plausible?

    Climate change is now so embedded, based on a range of greenhouse gases plus concrete construction in the developing world, that the World now needs to remove greenhouse gases, and not become complacent based on such pin-prick developments as new storage batteries for the world’s rich. Surely this just reduces the rate of increase.

    Climate change is a function of elevated greenhouse levels in the atmosphere compared to the eighteenth century. This is the real issue.

    How does anything being developed today gives us hope that greenhouse gas concentration will fall back to these levels over the next 100 years?

    Science rules – there is no alternative.

  9. The “Thomas Edison” Wikipedia entry is a good read, too long to reproduce here.

    It’s fascinating how there are always several dynamics at work.

    Some choice extracts:

    After devising a commercially viable electric light bulb on October 21, 1879, Edison went on to develop and electric “utility” designed to compete with the then existent gas lighting utilities.[65] In 1889 he patented a system for electricity distribution and on December 17, 1880, he founded the Edison Illuminating Company. The company established the first investor-owned electric utility in 1882 on Pearl Street Station, New York City. It was on September 4, 1882, that Edison switched on his Pearl Street generating station’s electrical power distribution system, which provided 110 volts direct current (DC) to 59 customers in lower Manhattan.[66]

    As Edison was expanding his direct current (DC) power delivery system he began receiving stiff competition from companies installing alternating current (AC) systems. From the early 1880s on AC arc lighting systems for streets and large spaces had been an expanding business in the US. With development of transformers in Europe and by Westinghouse Electric in the US in 1885-1886 it became possible to transmit AC very long distances over thinner and cheaper wires, and “step down” the voltage at the destination for distribution to users. This allowed AC to be used not only in street lighting but also in lighting for small business and domestic customers, the market Edison’s patented low voltage DC incandescent lamp system had been designed to supply.[67] Edison’s DC empire began suffering from one of its chief drawbacks: it was suitable only for the high density of customers found in large cities.

    Edison took advantage of the public perception that AC was dangerous and teamed up with the self-styled New York anti-AC crusader Harold P. Brown in a propaganda campaign, aiding Brown in the public electrocution of animals with AC as well as supported legislation to control and severely limit AC installations and voltages (to the point of making it an ineffective power delivery system) in what was now being referred to as a “battle of currents”. The development of the electric chair was used in an attempt to portray AC as having a greater lethal potential than DC and smear Westinghouse at the same time via Edison colluding with Brown and Westinghouse’s chief AC rival, the Thomson-Houston Electric Company, to make sure the first electric chair was powered by a Westinghouse AC generator.

    Thomas Edison’s staunch anti-AC tactics were not sitting well with his own stock holders. By the early 1890s Edison’s company was generating much smaller profits than its AC rivals, and the War of Currents would come to an end in 1892 with Edison being forced out of controlling his own company. That year the financier J P Morgan engineered a merger of Edison General Electric with Thomson-Houston that basically put the board of Thomson-Houston in charge of the new company called General Electric (dropping “Edison” from its name). General Electric now controlled three quarters of the US electrical business and would go on to compete with Westinghouse for the AC market.[73][74]

    It’s a great story. Just like today, there’s corporate/Wall St self-interest, lies/propaganda/PR etc.. and nothing really rules but the “free market”.

  10. “So will this allow you to go off grid?”

    You’d hope so, since you won’t be able to legally go on grid with it.

    “KwH” It may seem a nitpick, but, seriously, hard for anyone to even read past that. kWh.

  11. @Ikonoclast

    I generally agree with your analysis Ikonoclast. Economies of scale in materials and energy are not necessarily correlated with economies of scale in labour. My own musings about the benefits of localisation were based on accepting diseconomies of scale in labour for the sake of saving materials and energy. Indeed, the trajectory of Western technological progress has more or less loosely tracked the replacement of human muscle power with machine power which requires external energy. Given that concentrated sources of external energy are now limiting, but the world is awash with underutilised human labour, we will need to wind back that process, optimistically without winding back the liberties that technological progress including the Internet have brought.

    And economies of scale do not trumpet every other consideration. They are just one of the factors that need to be taken into account; and I don’t believe that neoclassical economics is up to the task of modelling them adequately.

  12. I was always confident that controlling carbon emissions was feasible at relatively small economic cost (and even a $100 a tonne tax is, in the big picture, a small cost). For better or worse it was never going to require dismantling capitalism, especially because capitalism’s biggest feature is its adaptability. But:
    a) it may be even cheaper than I thought.
    b) I thought PV solar would never be the main substitute for coal, and it’s beginning to look like I was wrong. In particular, recent developments in solar have priced nuclear out of the race.

    Still, we’re not quite there yet, and absent decent carbon pricing we may still not get there. Especially as the politics of getting even a modest carbon price enforced internationally remains awful – the temptation for countries to free ride is just too strong.

  13. @Megan
    Megan, it seems to me the story of the War of the Currents is one the free marketeers, not we lefties, would want to push. Edison tried every financial trick in the book, had far better PR than Westinghouse, had more politicians in his pocket too, but he went broke because of market realities. He was flogging an inferior product and all his tame legislators, financial chicanery and PR stunts could not overcome that engineering handicap. That is capitalism at its best.

  14. There are people using battery storage who are on the grid currently, the requirement is that thaeir battery system can be isolated from the grid in case of a power outage. Tesla will make this more affordable.

  15. I know us greenies love to go on about this, but what about the Jevons paradox? Surely this means that more than ever we need a stiff price on carbon to ensure these potential gains lead to reduced carbon emissions and not just larger houses/cars/bodies for the West.

  16. > He was flogging an inferior product

    Kinda. I know bits and pieces of the story, but basically it was impossible to design an AC system that was good for large variable-speed motors and lighting until the development of power semiconductors after the war. Too low a frequency and the flicker becomes intolerable; too high and you get nasty induction effects from the sorts of electric motors you could control the speed of. This is why so much railway electrification is DC, btw.

    [and then they developed rotary convertors, which could turn AC into DC pretty straightforwardly…]

  17. “So, I’m not going to bother trying to demonstrate the assertion that a technological fix is now possible”

    <- Your faith is so strong that you don't need to provide evidence for your belief. As I recall, you've argued for evidence-based policy in the past. What made you change your mind on this?

  18. @Geoff Edwards
    There are still problems, yet with innovation in the materials and performance of battery and solar panel technology.

    What is not mentioned is that girds that will be created that are neighbourhood and community based, perhaps running on the basis of a gift economy. If my neighbour abandons his wood fire burner, and I am to supply power for his heating in his well insulated house, it is a win-win outcome. My solar panels are a sunk cost. If the demonstration effect works either by others either setting up there own girds or joining in, then the neighbourhood benefits, not just in reduced pollution and a healthier environment.

    Libertarians, for example, will take to this idea, and will thereby be more likely to accept the science of climate change. Economies of scale, I have noticed, tend to reduce the quality of democracy and human rights.

  19. @derrida derider

    I don’t think you and I looked at that story the same way.

    When I see:

    “…we lefties…but he went broke because of market realities…. That is capitalism at its best.”

    I see neo-liberal free-market worship, economic rationalism etc…

  20. I’ll wait until it is in the can before whooping for joy. Still, Elon Musk has been very determined on this front, and has had the capital to do it his way. Big jump from here to there, but perhaps a significantly smaller leap than a decade back.

    As Megan has hinted, there is still the VHS vs Betamax issue…though if he is able to get to full production fast enough, perhaps he has that resolved as well.

    Ironically, by pushing hard for a shutdown of local (petrol/diesel) car production early, it might make it easier for electric cars to push into the Australian market.

    On a separate but related note, our local council has been surveying households/apts to determine how people get around, and how they use public transport, etc. They want to find ways of reducing cars on roads even more.

  21. @Robertito

    The Jevons paradox isn’t relevant here. We are replacing a polluting energy source with a clean one at a modestly higher cost.

  22. It seems every few years we clutch onto some new form of salvation for the clean energy problem. When that disappoints we abandon it and cling to another. Only five or so years ago the salvation du jour was hot dry rock geothermal power. There was talk of it replacing coal. Now all we have is a couple of abandoned experiments in the outback
    http://www.geodynamics.com.au/Resource-Centre/Our-Videos.aspx

    Alas this observation seem completely lost on the techno-optimists. I expect we will have a verdict on home batteries well before 2020. If they too disappoint you’d have to think something else will be the new favourite. Meanwhile solutions that might actually make a difference become less affordable as time and capital are frittered away.

  23. “Only five or so years ago the salvation du jour was hot dry rock geothermal power. ”

    Say what?

  24. Even with these batteries, solar panels and reasonable pricing, who here is going to be brave enough to disconnect from the grid?

  25. @John Brookes

    a 3kW system won’t produce 20kWh a day. Not on average over the year. Closer to 12? For a remote area power supply, batteries are not typically sized just to cover nighttime lack of sun. They are sized to give you x days of power if the weather is no good, based on your loads.

    A 10kWh battery sounds small even for residential remote area power supplies (RAPS) to date and remote area households would rarely use anything close to 20kWh a day, too expensive, they’d mostly be < 10kWh/day).

    But even with a reduced load, 10kWh of storage wouldn't let you go off grid with any kind of reliability for a stretch of inclement weather. That's why a lot of RAPS systems have back-up diesel generators, as well as batteries and PV.

    I guess you could buy multiple tesla batteries, but just having 10kWh is more about smoothing out your daily load on the grid perhaps. And even then, it doesn't sound like it offers guaranteed smoothing – hard to smooth your load when its been cloudy for 2 straight weeks. The battery would be empty. I guess it would still smooth your load if you charge the batteries from the grid as well as the PV (which is a demand management measure rather than a renewable energy measure then). So its more about having batteries to minimise your trouble to the network operators, rather than having batteries to go off grid of maximise your use of solar.

    These are just some on the fly thoughts on a monday morn.

  26. I suppose I was in the e)-camp but I thought that the first 50% or so of emissions cuts might be relatively cheaper but the cost curve rises more and more steeply. Technological progress on renewable energy and storage has come faster than I expected but I wouldn’t say that it is a technological fix for the problem yet, though it does make things easier. There is the question of materials for some of these technologies if deployed on a large scale which have been mentioned here and what would happen to their costs. Then there are all the industrial processes and agricultural etc. emissions that would have to be converted or cut if we are to have a chance of hitting a 2-3 degree target, given the expansion in demand for currently emissions producing activities that will happen still in developing countries. 2 degrees seems to mean getting to negative net emissions in the second half of the century.

  27. @Hermit

    For the record, here’s my form guide from 2009. On geothermal

    Exists on a small scale already and this could be expanded with modest technical progress. But the contribution will still be relatively modest.

    ” 2 degrees seems to mean getting to negative net emissions in the second half of the century.” Agreed. Basically this means near-zero carbon from energy, net reafforestation, and lower methane emissions from ag – given the short residence time of methane that translates to lower concentrations. None of it easy, but all feasible at modest cost.

  28. Process emissions will indeed be a challenge as David points out. Consider that China has consumed more cement in less than 6 years than what the U.S. consumed in a century. that’s a lot of CO2 for which there isn’t yet scalable low cost alternatives on the horizon in the same way that renewables are for power generation and soon transportation. it’s the last 40-50% of emissions that will really require some significant and rapid technological breakthroughs.

  29. 10kWh is half a day storage for the average family, and maybe a couple of days storage for an extremely energy efficient household. So not enough storage to go off grid, and therefore not yet the complete solution for climate change – even if the residential sector was the whole problem, which it is not.

    From a green point of view, it doesn’t necessarily have much impact, because PV system owners can already use the grid as a battery, so it wouldn’t stop green kWh from being dumped, that isn’t something currently happening. It just means that you get to use your own green kWh instead of exporting them at a cheap price, but the overall green kWh generated and used remains the same (no discussion of embodied energy in fabrication). It isn’t enough storage to guarantee load without the grid.

    I wouldn’t think the economics of avoiding grid export makes spending thousands on a battery worth it.

    I guess from a demand management point of view it offers some smoothing in that you won’t be exporting to the grid, but that battery isn’t big enough to stop you from needing to put a load on the grid, especially after rainy weather such as the last few weeks.

    For the technology to be a “fix” for climate change, I think batteries need to be bigger and cheaper still (batteries for industrial loads?). We already have battery storage for residential PV and have had for decades, its just that its always been expensive.

  30. What CSIRO thought about geothermal a few years ago
    https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/download?pid=csiro:EP126201&dsid=DS2
    Table 1 shows the potential for ‘dry’ ie granite which maybe adds up to 4 GW. Table 2 shows the potential for ‘wet’ mostly sandstone not volcanic rock like Rotorua NZ. Back when Marn Ferguson was energy minister (now a gas lobbyist) he gave developers plenty of Treasury cheques. Origin Energy also spent big.

    Apart from a hobby sized unit in Birdsville there is effectively 0 MW of geothermal power operating in Australia. Back in 2010/11 the talk was of it providing 25% of Australia’s electrical needs. What I’d like to know is what will keep the lights on and power electric cars by mid century when AGL and others tell us coal will be on the nose.

  31. “What I’d like to know is what will keep the lights on and power electric cars by mid century when AGL and others tell us coal will be on the nose.”

    Perhaps you should re-read the OP, rather than flogging dead horses.

  32. @John Quiggin

    If we are replacing a polluting technology with a “clean one at modestly higher costs” then doesn’t this imply a price penalty on the dirty technology (taxes or ETS) and/or price incentive (subsidies) for the cleaner technology?

    How much is the world doing in this regard? The last figures I looked at indicated subsidies for oil and coal were still much higher than subsidies for clean energy technology. Also, taxes or ETS setups re CO2e still tend to be no more than token jokes. Australia is a clear example in this regard.

    “In its 2015 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency expressed its concern at fossil fuel subsidies, the dismantling of nuclear power stations and the 80% increase in demand for electricity by 2040.” – Euractive.

    I agree with the concern about fossil fuel subsidies but not about the concern re nuclear power stations.

    “Each year, the world’s fossil fuels industries receive 550 billion dollars in subsidies; four times more than the renewable energies sectors. In the context of the fight against climate change, the IEA raises doubts over the prudence of these investments, and calls for greater investment in renewables.” – Euractive.

    The problem here is the ongoing subsidy of fossil fuels. In real terms, we are not serious until we end fossil fuel subsidies and put a real cost on CO2e.

    Our current political economy system (oligarchic corporate capitalism) seems to be responding to the need to change at a snail’s pace. Claims that changes in the political economy system are not needed are wrong. It is precisely the ownership, command and control of the system by an oligarchic elite that is the problem and makes necessary change so difficult. Markets are currently distorted by and in favour of these elites. Markets could work well to achieve our necessary goal of de-carbonisation of the economy if they were not so badly distorted in favour of the dinosaur fossil fuel interests.

  33. Note that these aren’t designed to be an off-grid solution (though you could build an off-grid system using them – given the price and the ten-year warranty this will probably be a common choice). They’re designed to be an energy levelling system, and the larger (10kWh) system is intended as a short-term battery backup for a household – i.e. across a short power outage. You can also stack them, up to something like 9 packs.

    If you had a grid connected solar system combined with some of these, you could make extra money using these to sell power back to the grid at peak pricing – depending on the pricing peaks, you could actually make a significant amount of money doing that (I’ve seen peak numbers in the tens of dollars per kWh). It’s possible to do that right now with Reposit Power (http://www.repositpower.com/), and with even a small storage system it would be much more profitable.

    Simon

  34. “communal cooking” is a very big thing in my city. we call them “restaurants”. But i agree centralisation isnt always the most efficient solution especially when u have high transmission liss.@Ikonoclast

  35. john goss :
    The techno-optimist in me is pleased that technological change has come to the rescue again, but the moralist is me is disappointed that threat of climate change hasn’t forced a significant change in the socio-eco-political system. Ah well. Santa claus doesn’t always give us what we want.

    john, don’t listen to your moralist self. He wants widespread misery in exchange for advancement of your ideology. This is the sort of evil thinking that should not be engaged in by the left.

    Uncle Milton :
    Even with these batteries, solar panels and reasonable pricing, who here is going to be brave enough to disconnect from the grid?

    Why would you disconnect if you’re producing enough power for yourself, since there will always be times when you’re producing more than you need, so you can sell it back to the grid?

  36. @Paul Davison

    Yes, the growth of less developed nations (as was China) is a bigger problem than most seem to realise.

    The proper measurement is per capita CO2 emissions, and China emits less than half that of US citizens on this basis – but more than the EU.

    The real problem is depicted here: CO2 Sources and Sinks

    The world emits 40 GTpa, but the land sink is stuck at around 10 GTpa

    The ocean sink is also limited at around 10 GTpa.

    So the atmosphere is forced to accept the rest – 20 GTpa, and with increasing trend.

    To get back to 1900 levels we need to:

    1) level off emissions now
    2) remove what is there and
    3) reduce emissions by 7/8ths.

    Unfortunately CO2 emissions even at the 1900 level, still cause global warming, particularly if the sinks are relatively saturated.

    How can we reduce emissions by 80% if we still permit coal mining, gas extraction and oil exploration?

  37. @Paul Davison

    Yes, the growth of less developed nations (as was China) is a bigger problem than most seem to realise.

    The proper measurement is per capita CO2 emissions, and China emits less than half that of US citizens on this basis – but more than the EU.

    The real problem is depicted here: CO2 Sources and Sinks

    The world emits 40 GTpa, but the land sink is stuck at around 10 GTpa

    The ocean sink is also limited at around 10 GTpa.

    So the atmosphere is forced to accept the rest – 20 GTpa, and with increasing trend.

    To get back to 1900 levels we need to:

    1) level off emissions now
    2) remove what is there and
    3) reduce emissions by 7/8ths.

    Unfortunately CO2 emissions even at the 1900 level, still cause global warming, particularly if the sinks are relatively saturated.

    How can we reduce emissions by 80% if we still permit coal mining, gas extraction and oil exploration?

  38. @andrew

    Yeah but resaurants are dearer not cheaper than home cooking. This would be true unless you avoided the capital costs of having a kitchen at home.

  39. While I like Tesla’s gadget, and I do think domestic storage is a good idea – I have a problem with this : I have always read that the world just doesn’t have enough Lithium for us all to have one of these.

    So, yes, nice gadget. No, it won’t scale. But definitely a sign-post pointing the right direction… maybe some other chemistry in a similar package.

    (on the up side, we seem to mine a lot of lithium here in Australia?)

  40. It’s Time…

    Time for a reality check, people

    Toy for Rich Green People

    We cannot rely on billionaires to develop technology to solve GHG’s. They will just produce the products that will maximise profits.

    Consequently the innovations will not flow across the globe where they are needed more.

  41. You would think that a 4kW solar system would be sufficient to power 2 x Teslas plus using solar hot water would reduce present daily consumption.

    In a Sydney winter a 4kW system should produce 18kWh per day.

    Including an inverter a top of the range 4kW system installed should be ~$8000.

    Those figures for the US seem to be high, 30kWh per day.

  42. Re that “Toy for Rich Green People” Forbes article, the comments are much better than the actual article, as various people (with varying degrees of politeness) point out a few of the author’s misconceptions and misunderstandings.

  43. Above. Musk’s objective is to decarbonise the economy, not to facilitate disconnection from the grid. It appears some commenters are confusing the two. In a future renewable world, the grid will become more important not less e.g. The SA-Vic-Tas inteconnections allows wind, hydro and to a lesser extent solar electricity to be moved from where it is in excess to where it is needed. As the German researchers have noted, it allows the grid itself to function as a giant battery.

  44. @John Quiggin
    I guess with my Jevons paradox comment I was making a techno-optimistic assumption, which is that at some point this sort of technology will lead to electricity which is competitive in price with coal generated power. So then what will happen to all the coal that would have been used to produce that electricity? It will become cheaper, no? Especially when those who own it, and own the supply chains for it, find cheaper ways to dig it up. And then we’ll find more creative ways to waste it.

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