Elon Musk: Sustainable Vision


The Ted Talk that I chose for this week’s blog post was an interview with Elon Musk. Elon Musk is the figure that is behind the origination of the Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX. Sustainability is a main focus of the innovation behind all three of these progressive and successful companies. The first company, Tesla, is a high cost luxury electric car. Musk believes that Tesla is ahead of an untapped trend of high end electric cars, as eventually, he presumes that all modes of transport will become fully electric. Although the electricity source that these cars are using is not from renewable energy, the use of natural gas in a power plant creates 60% efficiency while its use in a car creates only 20% efficiency. Eventually, it is the hope that the electricity sources for these cars will be fully renewable as well. Tesla has made electric cars desirable and upscale rather than consumers feeling like buying an electric car is making a sacrifice for the environment.
The second company that Elon Musk started is SolarCity. This is one of the most successful solar companies in the country and his vision is able to make solar a feasible option for homes and businesses everywhere. Musk is confident that within the next 20 years, solar will be the plurality of power in the world. By having confidence in this projection, he was able to foresee the success of SolarCity. Solar is being presented as a much more affordable and profitable option as the technology becomes more advanced and cheaper, and the financing options become more reasonable. Most customers of SolarCity choose to lease their solar panels rather than purchase them outright. By doing so, they are able to pay no money down at the start of the lease and begin to pay as they see the financial benefits of the lower utility bill going forward. This past summer, I worked for the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority which is the nation’s first full-scale clean energy finance authority. CEFIA, partially funded by the government, provides financing options for clean energy implementation in the state of Connecticut in order to encourage its use and growth. I worked in the residential programs of CEFIA and, by working with customers and contractors such as SolarCity, we were able to provide affordable lease and loan financing options to these customers from residential homes. Efforts and incentives like this cause a rapid spread in the use of clean energy. The price of implementation should not keep individuals from pursuing this option for their home.
The last company, which I knew nothing about prior to this talk, is SpaceX. This is a technology company focused on space exploration technology, particularly advanced rocket technology. The use of rockets for space exploration is highly inefficient and a large waste of resources as the parts of the rocket cannot be reused. The cost of the propellant used to launch a rocket is only .3% of the cost of the entire rocket itself. With this new innovative technology that SpaceX is creating, the part of the rocket that goes to waste will now be able to re-land itself on the launch pad to be reused within hours of its last launch. Aspects such as these are ones that we would never consider when thinking about sustainability. However, to think of how much waste is lost in each operation of a business is very important and Musk was able to see this need.
Much like CEO’s such as John Mackey, Elon Musk is able to keep in mind sustainability in his business strategy and he has seen these opportunities to innovate based on the needs of today and predictions for the future. This confident and visionary leader should serve as an example for the next generations of leaders to come in this crucial time. Not only do these leaders have the emotional intelligence necessary to leading for our future, but they also are able to see the large business opportunity that lies in the growing markets of environmentally focused production.

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5 responses to “Elon Musk: Sustainable Vision

  1. I really like this post. I agree that we need more visionary leaders who can make sustainability a financially viable option. If more companies begin to focus on how to reduce cost by cutting waste like SpaceX, improvements in sustainability can accelerate.

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  2. I didn’t know about the SolarCity company. This is interesting. One aspect I like about Musk and his approach is that often naysayers will say something like “well wind, solar and other renewables are not economic.” Well, these people, who often claim to be big fans of capitalism and its dynamic capability, for example, they are happy to point out that we keep finding new ways to get oli and gas out of the ground, seem to think the rules of capitalisttic innovation stop with renewable energy.

    So intellectually dishonest.

    Also, the fossil fuel defenders like to point at “subsidies” to claim that the search for cleaner energy is distasteful and too-socialistic compared to free market “drill baby drill” fossil fuels. EXCEPT, fossil fuels externalize much of the cost. And, I’d say the billions we have spent on military and intelligence to protect the global hydrocarbon economy is a pretty big subsidy. Last time I checked, we don’t need the 101st airborne to protect wind and solar.

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