Elon Musk, the eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire who heads such companies as Tesla and SpaceX, has a plan to save Australia.
On Thursday, Tesla’s vice president for energy products, Lyndon Rive, told the Australian Financial Review that he would “commit” to installing 100 to 300 megawatt-hours of batteries on the continent within 100 days. Then, asked by Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes on Twitter how serious Rive’s guarantee was, Musk responded confidently: “Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?”
@mcannonbrookes Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 10, 2017
Australia is in the midst of a gas supply shortage, which has threatened the nation’s power reserves. A recent report by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), an organization that manages much of the energy markets and power systems on the continent, predicted that declining gas production could lead to major electricity deficits as soon as summer 2018.
Meanwhile, south Australia has been hit particularly hard, with its 1.7 million people facing frequent energy cutbacks and power shortages. Last September, a slew of storms led to a statewide blackout that left some without power overnight.
As Vox’s Brad Plumer detailed in 2015, though Tesla may be known for making electric cars, it has been investing heavily in the manufacturing of other kinds of battery technologies, including a standalone lithium-ion battery that individuals can buy for their homes or businesses. In January 2017, this culminated in the completion of the “Gigafactory,” a massive battery cell production plant in Nevada that Bloomberg said would soon be the “world’s biggest factory.”
Musk’s certainty in his company’s ability to bring power to Australia so quickly comes in part from a similar success last year. A massive gas leak in late 2015 and early 2016 outside Los Angeles led to a fear of energy shortages throughout Southern California. Tesla built a 20 MW/80 MWh battery storage plant nearby in just three months.
Though it’s possible Musk and Tesla could achieve what they guaranteed in that short time frame, it could also just be a publicity stunt. Musk has a history of making odd or even outrageous claims, such as his belief that we all live in some advanced civilization’s video game simulation, or that humans will colonize Mars within the next decade.