Offshore wind power is rapidly emerging as a main engine of the world’s future energy system given its “massive untapped potential”, but oil and gas will continue to be crucial to a functional society “in the near-term”, according to Tesla founder and SpaceX chief Elon Musk.
Musk, speaking during the open session at the Offshore Northern Seas conference in Stavanger, Norway, said the global energy transition currently rested on “three pillars”: sustainable energy generation, battery storage and electric vehicles, with “ocean wind” a central renewable resource.
“Ocean wind is a massive untapped potential. [Build] a 100 x 100 array of 10MW [wind] turbines and you get 100GW – which you will need to marry to [industrial scale] stationary [energy] storage,” he said.
“We must have a clear path for a sustainable energy future [based] on hydro[power], geothermal, wind, solar.”
However, Musk stressed that due to the global energy crisis now unfolding, a ramp-up of hydrocarbon production was necessary in the short-term.
“I don’t tend to demonise oil and gas. These are necessary right now if civilisation is going to function. At this point in time, I actually think we need more oil and gas, not less... but simultaneously moving as fast as we can to a sustainable energy economy.”
At the same time Musk said he expects “tremendous change over the next five, 10, 15 years”, including foreseeing half of all cars coming off the assembly line in 2030 being electric.
“The transition to sustainable energy industry hinges on the rate of battery production [that the world can achieve], he noted.
Musk said despite the current pace of the energy transition being off-track to meet the Paris Agreement target of keeping global heating to a 1.5℃ rise above pre-industrial levels that “things are improving exponentially in terms of sustainable energy”, adding “but if we can make it go faster, then all the better”.
“If the stakes are important enough then you take the risks [of accelerating the transition].
He added: “What will actually happen [in the energy transition] is an ‘S-curve’ – an exponential increase, then linear, then logarithmic – true of any large industrial transition.”
The International Energy Agency forecasts that the build-out of offshore wind plant could reach 2TW or more by 2050, creating a $1trn-plus market.