Just by himself, Tesla CEO and SolarCity Chairman Elon Musk may be one of the most disruptive forces in the electric power industry today.
Deeply committed to a clean and sustainable energy future, Musk is creating the innovative technologies and business models needed to transition away from a global reliance on fossil fuels. But Musk isn't doing it quietly. Every word that comes out of his mouth is closely followed by the media and the markets.
To get a better sense of what he's planning, Utility Dive picks the eight most quotable moments of Musk's time in the spotlight.
1. 'We will run out of energy and die'
Musk believes fossil fuel-fired generation needs to be phased out -- as fast as possible.
"By definition we must move towards renewable energy," Musk said. "How can people argue against that? To argue that is to say that eventually we will run out of energy and die or civilization will collapse."
2. Tesla's mission: 'To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport'
A big part of this plan is electric vehicles, which can significantly reduce the amount of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.
The mission of Tesla is "to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bring compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible," Musk writes in The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me).
3. Musk wants more competition in the electric vehicle business
Musk is not just in it for the money -- as evidenced by the fact that he has been quite vocal in prodding the automobile industry to get into the electric vehicle business.
"The reason for me to do it is not because I saw a huge market opportunity. It was clear that we were not going to see electric cars from major car manufacturers," Musk said, as reported by Techcrunch. “The industry was operating under two false premises. One, that you could not create a compelling electric car. And two, that no one would buy it.”
"Now that we’ve become profitable, we expect that other manufacturers will get into the electric car market,” Musk observed, but "the response thus far has been slower than I’d like."
4. 'You can't rely on the market to do the right thing'
Musk plans to produce 500,000 Tesla electric vehicles annually by 2020.
“When you have an unpriced externality," Musk explained in this video, "you can’t quite rely on the market to do the right thing. So in order to have electric vehicles come sooner than they otherwise would—electric vehicles were always going to be the long-term transportation mechanism, but to make that day come sooner—you have to bridge that gap with innovation."
Tesla's strategy "is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model," Musk said.
5. Solar needs 'a massive volume of stationary battery packs'
Tesla isn't just a car company. Musk has announced plans to build a $5 billion Giga factory that will produce 35 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries per year -- more than the capacity of all the batteries on the planet today combined.
"This will allow us to achieve a major reduction in the cost of our battery packs and accelerate the pace of battery innovation," Musk said in Tesla's investor newsletter. "This will also allow us to address the solar power industry’s need for a massive volume of stationary battery packs."
6. 'Look into solar'
Musk told his cousin Lyndon Rive to "look into solar" on their way to Burning Man in 2004. Rive then co-founded SolarCity, the residential solar installer and financier, because "we have to change the way we burn fossil fuels. We just have to." The rest is history.
7. 'Solar will be the single largest source of electricity generation'
Solar is the future of energy generation, according to Musk.
"Solar power [with] batteries will be the primary (not exclusive) means of sustainable energy production," Musk said. He believes "quite strongly that solar power will be the single largest source of electricity generation by the mid-point of the century."
“People do not understand the magnitude of the business," Musk said. "It’s really very, very significant.”
8. 'Not defined by patents'
Global car production reached 100 million vehicles in 2013, but electric vehicles made up a miniscule portion of that number. By opening all of Tesla's technology patents up to the world, Musk made it clear he is committed to increasing current EV production numbers as fast as possible.
"Technology leadership is not defined by patents," Musk said in "All Our Patent Are Belong to You." Most companies keep their technology a closely guarded secret in order to stop other companies from replicating or bettering that technology.
Tesla doesn't have enough significant competition to make this policy necessary. "Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced," Musk said, "but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day."
Musk believes the combination of electric vehicles, stationary storage and solar power will result in “an overall system that works that can scale to worldwide capability.”