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The world’s largest lithium-ion battery has been built . . . in Australia

Australia has been a testing ground for much of the world’s scientific experiments for a long time. Experiments range from the benign, such as McDonald’s testing new fast-food items in an isolated but comparable market, to events of technological significance such as the United Kingdom’s testing of 12 nuclear weapons tests during the 1950s. Considering that Australia sits half a day ahead of America on the world clock, it’s only fair that Australia gets its fair share of world firsts.

Australia has copped a lot of flak for its incompetence when it comes to serving its own residents affordable electricity. As an Australian myself, this really hits home, but it should also serve as an important warning to countries that have the myopic view of “drill, baby, drill” when it comes to energy generation. The future of clean energy has more potential than Bitcoin had in 2009. And if there’s one thing that all good physicists love, it’s potential energy.

Australians are charged about twice as much locally for power than some of the recipients of the power we export to other countries. Just try to wrap your head around that one! For a direct comparison, I used Alan Pears’ brilliantly researched article to determine that Australia is paying 50–70% more for electricity. This is a conservative estimate; some people, such as Australian politician Craig Kelly, have said that Australians do indeed pay double as much.

The bitter irony that is short-circuiting the bank accounts of low-income Australians . . .

So, no matter which way you slice it, Aussie battlers are getting squeezed harder than a George Foreman Grill operated by George himself. Electricity should not be a luxury, and yet, for many Australians, it is. This is alarming, especially since Australia sits on rich uranium deposits; in fact, it has 31% of the world’s supply. However, while more sites are being planned following the unbanning of uranium mining by Western Australia in 2008, it took Elon Musk being challenged on national TV for the problem to be addressed in any meaningful way. (Why it takes an eccentric billionaire to fix the problem instead of, you know, the government is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure there’s a labyrinthine money trail somewhere.)

Musk has just finished construction of the record-breaking 129-megawatt-hour battery, and testing is currently underway. The battery isn’t only the largest in terms of capacity—it was installed in record-breaking time, too. He now has 100 days to provide power to South Australia, otherwise the state gets it for free. In late 2016, South Australia lost power to 30,000 homes; Tesla’s new battery has been promised to, fittingly, match that figure for South Australian residents with the installation of their record-breaking battery.

What does this mean for America (and the rest of the world)?

There’s only one thing that Americans love more than the Super Bowl: electricity. (And that’s primarily because you need electricity to watch the big game on TV.) While Americans only pay about half as much for electricity when compared to Australians, they use approximately twice. Much of this can be chalked up to very cold winters and skin-scorching summers. (Air conditioners use up a considerable amount of power.)

Assuming you’re not cosily reading this from a log cabin in front of a crackling fire, knowing how you’re able to enjoy warmth when the temperature plummets is of considerable importance. By supporting legislation that is forward-thinking and sustainable (both financially and environmentally), you can help safeguard your future and, especially, your children’s future.

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