The visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk has issued a stern warning: an impending global power shortage may be looming on the horizon, triggered by the growing adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and power-intensive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).
Rising Concerns from Tesla’s Head
Musk, the captain steering Tesla, the world’s leading fully electric vehicle manufacturer, has recently voiced his concerns multiple times, as per The Wall Street Journal’s coverage. His latest apprehension was aired at a conference organized by one of the most prominent U.S. power utilities, PG&E. He urged the energy executives to accelerate the timeline for new projects and adopt a heightened sense of urgency.
“My biggest concern is that there’s insufficient urgency,” Musk admitted. He elaborated that while the U.S. has had a fairly static electricity demand, the rapidly changing scenario calls for swift action. “We have to move much faster,” he emphasized.
The Ever-Growing Power Demand
Musk’s emphasis on the increasing need for electricity was echoed in an energy conference held in Austin. He declared, “However much electricity you think you need, more than that is needed.” He even projected that the U.S. electricity consumption might triple by 2045 due, in part, to the escalating adoption of battery-powered cars.
However, industry leaders have offered more modest forecasts. For instance, PG&E predicts a 70% surge in U.S. electricity demand over the next twenty years, while McKinsey sees demand doubling by 2050. Still, PG&E CEO Patti Poppe isn’t dismissing Musk’s predictions. “We are definitely taking notes here,” Poppe confessed to Musk, vowing to be the last person to question Musk’s forecasts.
Musk’s Warning of Imminent Power Shortages
During a recent event discussing his new venture, xAI, Musk suggested that within two years, the world could face power shortages due to the exponential power demand driven by AI growth. He explained, “That’s roughly where things are trending.” If his prophecy comes true and utilities fail to act timely, other nations may soon have to follow South Africa’s lead in instituting rotational power cuts to curb demand.
A Potential Solution in Grid-Scale Batteries
One of Musk’s proposed solutions is the deployment of more grid-scale batteries. These batteries would store unused electricity during low-demand periods. Instead of decreasing power output, the generated electricity could be redirected to large batteries, providing an extra power source during high-demand periods. Musk estimates that this could potentially boost energy output by 50-100%.
Eskom’s Grid-Scale Battery Project
South Africa’s Eskom is currently assembling its first grid-scale battery project, the Eskom Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project. Upon completion, BESS is expected to house batteries with 1,440MWh of capacity and a 60MW PV capacity.
Although the first phase was initially projected to wrap up by June 2023, Engineering News reveals that this milestone has been deferred by six months.