Cannon-Brookes ‘talked to Elon overnight’, is Australia going to take back the biggest battery title?

Yesterday, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Government would build energy infrastructure if the private market wasn’t able to.

We’ve seen in recent years that Australia’s energy supply can be problematic, as legacy coal-fired power plants reach their end of life. Unless replacement capacity can be sourced, and inter-state connectors are made more robust, the Government is planning on taking action.

We can all agree that cheap, reliable power is something a developed country like Australia should be able to rely on, the question is, what energy source should we build to replace the soon-to-close Liddell power plant in the New South Wales Hunter Valley.

If there are no firm contracts in place by April 2021, the Government would then step in and fix the problem, spending up big to create as much as 1000 Megawatt in dispatchable energy.

The Government’s plan is to build a new gas-fired power station. While a gas plant produces fewer emissions than coal, it’s still not zero emissions when we could have that future.

Ultimately our energy usage features a lot of spikes in peak demand, requiring energy sources to fire up and fire down to meet demand on the grid. With coal, this takes hours, with gas, this takes minutes, with battery, this takes seconds.

While the Prime Minister says he’s technology agnostic, it’s clear that he’s incredibly averse to battery storage, despite the evidence from Tesla’s ‘big battery’ in South Australia proving that it can work exceptionally well.

Hornsdale Power Reserve was the largest battery in the world at 100MW/129MWh back in 2017. Since then, its success has been followed up by an expansion that seen an additional 50MW/ 64.5MWh added.

The battery, paired with Tesla’s smart software, known as Autobidder, is able to beat all other generation types, in responding to market requests to buy energy, responding in just seconds.

Hornsdale has managed to deliver more than $150M in savings.

Given the success here at Hornsdale, it’s pretty obvious the battery technology is capable of storing energy captured from renewables (wind and solar) and deploying that grid-scale power to the National Electricity Market (NEM) and Australian consumers.

Aussie Mike Cannon-Brookes was disappointing by the direction the Government is heading with energy production, taking to Twitter to detail his frustrations.

The man who helped convince Tesla’s Elon Musk to take on the project more than 3 years ago, is back on the phone again.

Atlassian founder and fellow billionaire, Cannon-Brookes was on the ABC’s Radio National Breakfast program this morning and confirmed he’s talked to Elon overnight.

While discussions are obviously early stages, and not yet public, there are no prizes for guessing what the conversation was about – batteries.

The scale of the problem is up for debate, but as is the exact solution, but one thing’s for sure, Australia could implement more solar, more wind and more storage to solve this problem.

Page 14 of AEMO’s integrated system plan, provides a list of Projects to augment the transmission grid. This work is already underway and would assist the grid in dealing with a growth in renewables and the transmission of the energy generated.

The PM says we need an increase of around 1,000 MW of additional dispatchable power to meet demand and see a reduction in prices, AEMO lists the figure as somewhere around the 150MW. This suggests the Government wants to build excess capacity with gas, to the tune of 850MW, just to reduce the cost of energy. That seems like a very expensive solution.

Regardless of the final size of the storage, this could spawn another campaign to see Australia get back the crown for ‘the world’s biggest battery’. If we’ve learnt anything from Hornsdale, we know the technology scales, so it really is just a matter of cost and availability.

That is certainly a tall order, even for Musk, with the company being largely cell-constrained over the past couple of years as Model 3 and Model Y production ramped up.

The big question is what will be announced at Tesla’s upcoming battery day. It’s expected the company will unveil new battery technology that unlocks battery supply and it’s possible that through new battery chemistry, combined with new manufacturing technology and facilities, Tesla could be in a position to help.

Another option for the Government is to continue the expansion of virtual powerplants. More than 1 in 4 households in Australia, now have solar on their roof, so it’s possible we could see the Government offer incentives to install batteries to homeowners, decentralizing the power generation and storage throughout the suburbs.

Via RenewEconomy.

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwright
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021


  1. The primary purpose of the battery in Hornsdale is provision of frequency control and ancillary services within milliseconds, while gas or hydro generators take tens of seconds, to minutes to respond. Large synchronous generators provide inertia in the grid due to the spinning mass of large turbines. The root cause of state wide blackout was wind turbines disconnecting from the grid to protect themselves from frequency fluctuations, not a lack of power.

    A 1,000MW coal power plant is able to supply that energy 24/7, where as the battery’s 129MWh would be exhausted if required to power 60,000 homes for 4 hours. With current technology, pumped hydro is likely to be a better alternative for storage than a battery. Pumping during the night and discharge during the day can leverage.

    The question is how much are we prepared to spend on insurance for the rare occurrence of cloudy skies and still winds across the eastern seaboard?

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