My top financial advice for the week: #shortTesla.
Actually, this has been my top financial advice for some time. But it’s starting to look cannier and cannier as Elon Musk’s taxpayer-funded business empire begins to crumble and more and more people start to ask awkward questions like: “This solar snake oil you’re selling. How exactly does it work for anyone other than the guy who’s selling it?”
In Hong Kong they’ve already wised up to this. Tesla sales have plummeted to zero after the government removed the tax breaks.
People only buy impractical, expensive, virtue-signalling cars when heavily bribed by the government to do so. Who would have thought, eh?
But for Elon Musk likely the much bigger disaster just waiting to happen is the deal he has struck with the government of South Australia, promising to help resolve the state’s energy crisis by building the world’s largest grid-scale battery. The Independentreports:
South Australia has picked Tesla to install the world’s largest grid-scale battery, which would be paired with a wind farm provided by France’s Neoen, in a major test of the reliability of large-scale renewable energy use.
South Australia, the fifth-biggest state with a population of 1.7 million, has raced ahead of the rest of the country in turning to wind power. Its shutdown of coal-fired plants has led to outages across the eastern part of the nation, driving up energy prices.
The drawback to South Australia’s heavy reliance on renewables has been an inability to adequately store that energy, leading to vulnerabilities when the wind doesn’t blow.
To me this stinks almost as much as the deal the late Hugo Chavez once struck with the hard-left Mayor of London Ken Livingstone to help prop his Socialistic fiefdom with cut-price Venezuelan petrol. Basically it looks like another liberal elite stitch up at the expense of the honest, hard-working taxpayer.
How do we know this? Well we don’t, for sure, because the details are so murky. But people who have attempted to do the math aren’t convinced that South Australia’s energy users are going to get value for money. Forbes magazine reports:
On Twitter, Musk had made an attractive, but guardedly qualified price estimate of $250/kw-hr for installations larger than 100 MWhr. He quickly admitted that price does not include shipping, installation, taxes or tariffs. He failed to state that the price likely does not include site specific engineering, site appropriate cooling systems or site specific grid connection infrastructure.
Adequate cooling systems are important for high power, energy-dense battery installations. High discharge rates generate enough heat to damage the battery and its supporting electronics. Fires and explosions are more frequent occurrences than desired and are a high risk for improperly cooled or controlled systems.
With those additional installation investments, an estimate of $500-$600 per kilowatt-hour of storage is probably closer to reality. An installed 100 MW/300 MWhr lithium-ion power station would cost somewhere between $150 million -$180 million (200 million Australian dollars to A$240 million)
Within the context of addressing South Australia’s electric power system stability needs, a 300 MW-hr installation appears to have been unaffordable. Premier Jay Weatherill has a total of A$550 million available, and Tesla’s massive battery is only a part of the necessary capability.
Musk’s unicorns-for-fairydust scheme hasn’t impressed this Australian writer, Graham Richardson, either:
Call me a cynic but I am always suspicious when the zillionaire flies in to a fanfare of a hundred trumpets and a thousand cameras to make an announcement as big as this without mentioning, or even hinting at, what the enterprise might cost.
Musk is a proven grand master at relieving governments of huge chunks of taxpayers’ money. It is a fair assumption that he is not paying the whole of the bill. Well then, how much is he coughing up and how much is Jay Weatherill putting in. If Musk is putting it all in then surely the South Australian Premier would be crowing about his negotiation skills.
Indeed. What we do know is that of all the places in the world that have been royally screwed by the Enron economics of green energy none has taken a more vigorous and painful rogering than South Australia.
South Australia is a green experiment gone horribly wrong: crippled with blackouts and crazily high energy prices which have been hugely damaging both to businesses and consumers, as well as reducing a state in one of the world’s civilized countries to a level in energy-reliability terms is more akin to Zimbabwe’s or Iraq’s.
Its miseries are entirely man-made. South Australia – like the rest of the continent – is sitting on mountains of cheap, abundant fossil fuel. This energy disaster is purely the result of the local government being hijacked by green zealots who thought, somehow, it would be a good idea to force the state to rely for 40 per cent of its power on renewable energy, mainly bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco crucifixes.
As a green evangelist himself, Elon Musk is very much part of the problem rather than the solution.
Like South Australia’s energy experiment, his business model is predicated on massive taxpayer subsidy being provided, indefinitely, till the glorious day – sometime in an unspecified future – when giant batteries can store renewable energy on a commercial scale.
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