One of the most telling moments of 60 Minutes’ examination of Australia’s energy market mess on Sunday night came not from the mouth of Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, but from the federal energy minister, Josh Frydenberg.
During an interview with the Channel 9 program’s lead reporter, Liz Hayes, Frydenberg, who is also Australia’s minister for the environment, admitted that he does not have rooftop solar installed at his family home.
“Do you have solar panels?” asked Hayes at around the 22 minute mark.
JF: I don’t.
LH: Shame on you.
JF: (Laughs) It’s a big investment, and I’ve got other priorities at the moment. But certainly, I’m watching my power bill regularly. … And we’ve been paying too much.
But Frydenberg’s failure to embrace rooftop PV – even though his boss, the PM, who has both solar and battery storage at his pad – should probably be no surprise, considering his apparent disdain for new energy technology, like the 100MWh battery system Tesla is installing alongside a wind farm in South Australia.
According to Elon Musk, the sheer scale of this ground breaking 100MWh project – which he describes as “a light-bulb moment for the world” in the transition to renewable energy – should be a point of pride for Australia.
But, as Hayes points out in the interview, the federal Coalition hasn’t chosen to see it this way. Instead they have opted to play politics with the Labor SA government, and to mock the Big Battery, comparing it to the Big Banana, the Big Prawn and other outsized – and largely useless – Australian tourist attractions.
“Elon Musk’s battery was a fraction of the size of the (Turnbull government’s) Snowy Hydro Scheme,” Frydenberg told Hayes on 60 Minutes, in defense of this stance.
“It was sold to the people of South Australia as an answer to their woes by (SA Premier) Jay Weatherill, whereas in reality it is just a fraction of what that state needs.”
Still, it is surprising that Frydenberg – whose home base is in Melbourne and who, like the rest of us, is paying too much for his electricity – hasn’t taken up rooftop solar. Even avowed climate sceptic and arch-conservative South Australian Senator, Corey Bernadi, has put 12kW on his roof.
Maybe he is waiting to plug into Snowy Hydro 2.0.