LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA – There is a lot more riding on Tesla Inc’s deal to install the world’s largest grid-scale electric battery in Australia than whether Elon Musk can meet his bold commitment to finish within the 100-day deadline.
Under an agreement made public on July 7, Tesla must deliver the 100 megawatt (MW) battery within 100 days of the contract being signed, or the government of South Australia state won’t have to pay the electric car, clean energy and space exploration company.
On the surface, this is a deal aimed at providing back-up electricity to South Australia, a state that has been plagued by blackouts since it closed coal-fired power plants and moved to being powered mainly by renewables such as wind, and to a grid connection to neighboring Victoria state.
Certainly, if successful, the 100 MW of Tesla lithium-ion batteries will be able to provide power to some 30,000 homes in South Australia, which is home to about 1.7 million people and ranks fifth by population of Australia’s six states. But the significance of the deal goes way beyond the mere provision of emergency power, and it is likely to become a political football in Australia’s wider energy debate.
Broadly speaking, Australia’s energy debate is becoming polarized into two factions, one in favor of using the nation’s abundant coal as the main fuel, and the other committed to switching to mainly renewable sources of power as part of efforts to limit global climate change.
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