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Musk’s Master Plan has solar for everyone, but investors aren’t buying the dream — yet

ICE Graveyard 20/07/2016 Devin Coldewey

The Tesla “Master Plan Part Deux” published tonight by founder Elon Musk proposes quite a lot of major projects, but perhaps the most far-reaching of them all is the plan to put solar on every roof and a battery in every garage. And to do that, he not-so-subtly hints, Tesla and SolarCity will need to be more than friends.

“We need to combine and break down the barriers inherent to being separate companies,” Musk wrote. “That they are separate at all, despite similar origins and pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy, is largely an accident of history.”

That rather overstates it, of course, and he largely undercuts that position with the next sentence, which implies that both companies are only just now arriving at a position to work with one another.

All the same, it’s clearly a plea to the shareholders and investors who are skeptical of the financial alchemy by which combining two debts will produce a profit. They may not see as far as Musk does, but his long-distance vision seems to blind him to the difficulties right under his nose. What he and the others at Tesla have built is remarkable, but he only sees it as the beginning of a much longer journey, and there are plenty of people who’d like to get off — or at least take a breather.

Even the ones who share Musk’s faith must surely want a few more specifics when it comes to next steps. I mean, here’s his pitch:

“Create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world. One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app.”

Sounds great, except each single aspect of that so-called plan is more than enough to fill any sane company’s plate! It’s an admirable goal, of course, and I don’t doubt the companies are capable of bringing it off in time. But it doesn’t make much of a case for the proposed acquisition — here, today. (Of course a more detailed plan has surely circulated internally, but if it were much more fleshed out than this, Musk is the type to say so.)

Not everyone moves at the speed of Musk, which is no doubt endlessly frustrating to him. But his numerous and glittering successes should comfort him in his frustration. It’s unlikely that anything he has built will go to waste (the Hyperloop, perhaps, but mostly because he didn’t build it), but he’ll need to do more than dream out loud if he wants Tesla’s weary backers to follow his lead.

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