Solar and utilities can co-exist, says Elon Musk | RenewEconomy

Solar and utilities can co-exist, says Elon Musk

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Elon Musk tells audience at Detroit auto show that the future for utilities is pretty good when viewed in collaboration with solar and electric mobility.

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PV Magazine

The growth of electric vehicles means that electricity demand will rise, which will benefit both solar and utilities, suggests Elon Musk. Hanergy

The dreaded “death spiral” hanging menacingly over the heads of leading utility companies across the globe need not come to pass said Elon Musk this week during a speech at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Speaking to a packed press conference, the enigmatic entrepreneur behind Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX, said that the increasing penetration of electric vehicles, allied to a growing solar sector that sees more and more residences and businesses act as distributed generators, is likely to have a transformative impact on electricity demand.

“The future for utilities is actually not a bad future; it’s pretty good,” Musk remarked. “As we transition to electric transport, we’re going to see a significant increase in the demand for electricity.”

Musk’s remarks came amid fears among many utility companies that the rise in distributed generation (DG) in the U.S. could threaten the old centralized model of electric generation. As more and more people find it cheaper and easier to go off-grid with solar and battery storage, the cost of maintaining the grid increases, forcing expense on to remaining customers who, in turn, are more likely to extricate themselves from the grid.

This “death spiral” phenomenon comes at a time when electrical demand in the U.S. is falling. Figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggest that large-scale generators in the U.S. will produce less power in 2015 than they did in 2007 – despite a recovering economy.

However, this trend may well be reversed with the rise of electric vehicles, suggests Musk – a rise that is being facilitated by the growth of solar power. Indeed, the decentralization of power supply does not necessarily spell the end for the grid, SolarCity chief executive Lyndon Rive told the Financial Times, rather, it is a step-change that needs to be embraced.

“When you’ve had a monopoly for a hundred years, and you’ve never seen change, change may seem like death to you,” Rive said, adding: “People misinterpret what we [SolarCity] are trying to achieve and think that there isn’t going to be any grid.

“It is important that there is a grid.”

Rive’s cousin and SolarCity investor Elon Musk sought to assuage such fears further at the Detroit auto show. Speaking about utilities’ role in the future of the energy mix, he said: “Long-term, I think [electricity] demand approximately doubles, and if half of that is met from solar and half from existing utilities, to a first approximation the utilities’ business [share] remains about the same.”

Source: PV Magazine. Reproduced with permission.

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  1. Guest 5 years ago

    Damn right. The problem isn’t falling demand, it’s growing
    uncertainty in what’s been a fairly certain game. The red/blue lines represent
    the extremes of two technology adoption scenarios (guess what they are?), the green line what happens
    if they’re combined, compare to the AEMO medium economic forecast. By
    comparison the AEMO high/low economic forecasts (dashed lines) are just tweaks.

  2. Rob G 5 years ago

    Musk is right, it’s up to utilities to adjust to renewables and smart power management rather than fight them. Those that don’t change will be left to die.

    I think, at that same talk Musk expressed his big concerns about current trend in fracking. Worrying that such cheap and abundant gas would undermine the move to renewables and thus affect the electric car transition (and Tesla sales too). Not to mention the impending consequences that methane has on the atmosphere.

    In a different talk, Musk talked of the very real possibility of electric planes! Little by little he is showing the world that it can manage without these fossil fuels.

  3. jstack6 5 years ago

    Also V2G Vehicle to GRID can make Solar work with the GRID and help both consumers and the Utilities during the Peak Time Of Day. EVeryone wins if we do it right and work together. The little Nissan LEAF can do V2G, ACPropulsion is a leader in this. Read

    • SunGod 5 years ago

      And the Nissan LEAF is getting cheaper and cheaper here in Australia. Was $55,500 a year ago, now it’s $40,000.

      • jstack6 5 years ago

        Right and the LEAF battery is now $5,500 to replace in the US and it’s Heat Tolerant (Lizard) . The 2016 is planned with 250 mile range on 1 charge. In Aussie land you have the Solar Challenge car run and the Ariana EV,

        • SunGod 5 years ago

          All good points JS – must say I didn’t know about those new developments with the LEAF. It’s all great to see 🙂

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