16 Oct 2020, 13:30
Benjamin Wehrmann

Tesla forced to halt construction at Berlin factory after failing to pay its water bill

rbb24 / Der Spiegel

US carmaker Tesla has been forced to halt construction works at its planned e-car and battery factory near Berlin after failing to pay a water bill to the local supply company, which then turned off Tesla's water, public broadcaster rbb24 reports. The supplier company WSE told rbb24 that turning off a customer's water supply in case of outstanding payments would be a routine procedure and that no exception would be made for Tesla, adding that it expects the company will soon settle its bill. Tesla was able to sign a contract for construction only a day before the interruption after a long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a public hearing of local interest groups that take issue with the factory's environmental impact, such as its expected high water consumption.
According to news website Der Spiegel, the factory in Grünheide, on the outskirts of Berlin, will have an annual water demand of about 1.4 million cubic metres, meaning the local water network will require a major restructuring to cater for the needs of the new bulk buyer. Tesla initially calculated an annual demand of 3.3 million cubic metres but reduced the figure after critics said it could severely drain local reserves in a region that has grappled with intensive droughts in the last years. However, an expansion of the factory in the future would likely push demand up again, the article says, concluding that the gigafactory's water demand could turn into a "permanent problem" for the company.

Construction of the factory, which is scheduled to churn out about 500,000 e-cars per year and to employ some 12,000 people, had already begun despite pending licenses. Tesla plans to open the factory, which will become its European mainstay and which has been hailed as a potential gamechanger for the German e-car industry, in 2021.

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