China can ‘easily’ support all its energy demand using homegrown solar power, says Tesla’s Musk in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 7:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 January, 2016, 12:50pm

China can use its huge land mass to harness enough solar energy to “easily” generate enough power to satisfy the needs of the whole country including Hong Kong, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in Hong Kong today, as China moves towards more sustainable energy production.

“China has an enormous land area, much of which is hardly occupied at all,” said Musk at the StartmeupHK Venture Forum in Hong Kong.

READ MORE: With Tesla’s Model S now Hong Kong’s top-selling sedan, chief Elon Musk predicts city to become world leader in electric vehicles

“The Chinese population is concentrated along the coast. Once you go inland, the population in some cases is remarkably tiny,” he said.

“You can easily power all of China with solar [energy].”

While Musk does not see rooftop solar panels as a viable solution for Hong Kong’s energy needs, he suggested the city could harness some of the solar energy produced in China.

“What you can do is [install] ground-mounted solar power near Hong Kong, and tap into the existing power lines that are coming in [to the city],” said Musk.

“You can supply Hong Kong with solar power. It just needs to be coming from a land area that’s not too far away.”

China ranks as the world’s largest solar market, as well as the biggest producer of greenhouse gases. The country has pledged to cap CO2 emissions by 2030 as it seeks more sustainable energy sources.

READ MORE: ‘Hands-free’ driving in Hong Kong: Tesla begins road-testing ‘autopilot’ mode, government yet to approve, SCMP takes it for a spin

Musk, who is also the chairman of US-based solar panel company Solar City, said at a media event on Monday that he believes the right approach towards the sustainable production of energy is a combination of solar, wind, hydroelectric and even nuclear energy.

“It’s important to make both the production and consumption of energy sustainable,” said Musk.

“If either of these are missing, then it’s not a sustainable future,” he added.

“It wouldn’t make sense to have gasoline cars and sustainable power production, or just electric cars and hydrocarbon energy production.”

China will “radically move” towards solar and wind energy, he said, a sentiment in line with the Chinese government’s target to increase capacity for wind and solar power production by over 21 per cent this year as it seeks to ease its reliance on coal.

Media reports emerged last year suggesting that Tesla faced a lack of demand in China, with the country ranking as it only market with excess inventory.

The company said it was seeking a partner in China to produce its cars locally so as to sidestep high import duties and a lack of local incentives.

Meanwhile, with world oil prices at an all-time low, and given the negative effect this may have on demand for Tesla’s electric cars, Musk called for a carbon tax on petrol-powered vehicles during this week’s Hong Kong trip.

“That’s actually even more important when the price of oil is super low; otherwise, it just delays the transition to sustainable transport,” he said.

“And whatever environmental effects that will happen are exacerbated.”

Musk said he was “pleased” to hear that Hong Kong is in the process of building more tunnels, as he believes these will help solve some of its gridlock issues.

Work is currently afoot on a Central-Wanchai Bypass and Island Eastern Corridor Link in the city, among other scheduled tunnel projects. The former is due to be completed by the end of next year.

“You can have many tunnels criss-crossing each other, with maybe a few metres of vertical distance between them, and completely get rid of traffic problems,” he said.