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Renewable energy transformation challenge - Tesla Chair

Robyn Denholm, Chair, Tesla Inc

10 November 2021

We have the technology for a renewable energy transformation but the challenge is accelerating its deployment at an incredible pace, Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm told the APEC CEO Summit.

Introduced by Contact Energy Chair Robert McDonald, Ms Denholm said Tesla’s focus is on two sectors responsible for half of global carbon emissions – electricity generation and transport, with Tesla aiming to produce 20 million EVs annually by 2030.

Lithium ion batteries were a critical platform for energy transformation, helping to lower electricity prices and affordably solve grid stability and reliability issues, Ms Denholm said.

“These batteries simply cannot be made without the contribution from almost every country in APEC. This is a group of innovative forward leaning countries committed to working together, despite our many differences, to open barriers through collaboration and through trade. Both are critical to this race to zero emissions. Because the new energy era is very international and we will succeed or fail as one.”

Although electric vehicle sales including hybrid have more than doubled globally, EVs currently represent about 1% of the 1.5 billion cars on the road.

“To fully decarbonise transport by 2050 we have to stop selling combustion engine vehicles by around 2030 in most places,” Ms Denholm said.

“The number one thing I urge all countries in the APEC region to do is to strengthen emission standards. This fundamentally changes the economics of CO2 pollution in vehicles and also gives the industry throughout the supply chain confidence to invest knowing that the market is heading towards EVs.”

New Zealand had shown leadership, with a clean car discount scheme and standards currently before Parliament which would put New Zealand’s vehicle fleet amongst the cleanest and safest in the world, Ms Denholm said.

“Globally we can only transition to reliable, cost effective renewables as fast as we can build energy storage. We can only reduce vehicle pollution as fast we can build electric vehicles. That is the race.

“The supply chains for batteries and vehicles are immense. The required growth for minerals and materials is exponential. This is the time for countries to back their sustainable mining, refining and manufacturing capability.”

APEC economies could give markets certainty and direction by setting clear and ambitious timelines for technology transition. This included strong vehicle emission standards, not just for 2050 but importantly for the next 5-10 years, she said.

Leaders could invest and underwrite supply chains for the new energy era ensuring they met environmental and social standards, prepare energy grids for transition and preserve free trade.

“Every nation has a critical role to play, from the smallest to the largest,” Ms Denholm said.

The Summit is supported by PwC (Knowledge Partner), Contact Energy, Fonterra, Microsoft and Westpac NZ.