Elon Musk has offered to solve Puerto Rico’s energy crisis with Tesla Inc.'s (TSLA) batteries and solar systems.
Millions of Puerto Ricans have been left in the dark after Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean island and its already fragile power grid. According to local government figures, reported on by CNNMoney, only 9 percent of the country’s residents currently have electricity.
Musk believes Tesla, which acquired sustainable energy firm SolarCity for $2.6 billion in November, might have a solution. The electric car maker’s CEO tweeted that his company has already helped to bring more efficient power sources to smaller islands and could use this expertise to assist Puerto Rico in its moment of crisis.
"The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico, too,” Musk tweeted Thursday morning. “Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.”
Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló quickly tweeted back, voicing his enthusiasm for Musk’s proposals.
The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 5 October 2017
As Musk mentioned in his tweet, Tesla has some experience building solar energy grids in countries facing power shortages. The company made a battery and solar microgrid on an island in American Samoa and also took on a similar project in Kauai, Hawaii’s fourth-largest island. However, while Samoa and Kauai have populations of about 195,000 and 66,000, respectively, Puerto Rico is considerably larger, with roughly 3.4 million residents.
If Tesla is commissioned to sort out Puerto Rico’s energy crisis, it will prove to be a challenging job with huge implications. At present, the island imports and burns oil to generate electricity. Puerto Rico’s use of fossil fuels is much more environmentally unfriendly than the system Musk is proposing and tends to cost consumers a lot more.
The average monthly energy bill in Puerto Rico, including electricity and natural gas, is $438.21, compared to $169.49 in the continental U.S., according to a 2015 report by The Guardian. (See also: Tesla's Most Bullish Call Yet: Nomura's $500 PT.)
Musk has carved out a reputation for reaching out to countries with power shortages. Tesla has already reportedly sent hundreds of Powerwalls, battery systems designed to store energy, to Puerto Rico, together with a workforce tasked with installing them. In July, the tech guru also promised to deliver the world’s largest lithium ion battery to South Australia. (See also: Tesla: 6 Secrets You Didn't Know.)