Energy Lessons Learned at SXSW

by Anna Gretz
March 22, 2018
Energy

The South by Southwest festival often hosts surprise guests, and this year was no different--Elon Musk, peddler of home batteries and missions to Mars, made an appearance this year. Tesla’s CEO covered a broad range of topics, but focused on the technological viability of sustainable energy, as he often does.

According to Elon Musk, the technology is here. Since he started developing batteries for electric cars and solar homes alike, Elon Musk has always been quick to remind us that sustainable energy is important to our planet’s future, and the thriving of humanity. Now, he says, we are at a point where these solutions are technologically viable.

“The core technologies are there with wind, solar with batteries,” Musk said while speaking at SXSW. Then he added, “The fundamental problems is there’s an unpriced externality in the cost of CO2.”

In other words, we have a price problem. Musk believes that renewable energy, like solar, and energy storage in the form of batteries is poised to take off and take over the market, but their success is being impeded by the skewed cost of carbon.

“The market economics work very well if things are priced correctly,” he continued. “But when things are not priced correctly and something that has a real cost has zero cost, then that’s where you get distortions in the market that inhibit the progress of other technologies.”

Translation: carbon costs more than its price reflects, and it’s getting in the way of the penetration of renewable energy source.

To remedy this, Musk recommends a carbon price--an extra cost put on anything that releases carbon into the atmosphere. If anyone understands the high these fees could potentially get, it’s Elon Musk himself, CEO of SpaceX. One of his own companies in the business of launching space-bound rockets, so he’s definitely not exempt from the consequences of this idea. He knows he’ll have to pay the price, but he thinks it’s worth it if it wakes people up to the fact that our current energy practices could be dangerous.

“In the absence of a price, we sort of pretend that digging trillions of tons of fossil fuels from deep under the earth and putting it into the atmosphere--we’re pretending that has no probability of a bad outcome.”

What might that bad outcome be? Musk doesn’t sugar coat it. He thinks that if we continue to use Earth’s resources in an unsustainable way, there’s a pretty good chance that humanity is headed back to the Dark Ages.

But there’s good news: homes equipped with solar and energy storage don’t have to worry. Even if the grid goes dark, the sun will still be there, dishing out free, clean energy on a daily basis. You just have to make sure you have a way to harness that energy, and store it.

If you’re interested in building your own energy fortress and keeping home out of the Dark Ages, consider EnergyShield--Swell Energy’s plan to keep your home energized with solar and energy storage. Plans start at only $1 a day.