AUSTIN (KXAN) – Nearly a year after being approved by the Texas State Public Utilities Commission, Tesla has launched Tesla Electric, a solar energy retail program.
The company made the announcement Thursday on Twitter, calling it “a power plan that offers affordable clean energy for homes with Powerwall, starting in Texas.”
This is the first Tesla program of its kind in the world and is part of a pilot program with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) approved earlier this year.
PUCT approved Tesla Energy Ventures, LLC as a provider last year before launching this pilot.
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“The goal is to develop more ways for ERCOT customers to manage their electricity use, to their benefit and to the benefit of the Texas grid,” said PUCT spokesman Rich Parsons.
How would customers do this? Through virtual power plant (VPP).
“Instead of a big new gas plant, you’d have a lot of different distributed energy resources, which are small [houses]”,” explained David Tuttle, a researcher and lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin. “Each one would be small, but when combined together, it generates a meaningful amount of electricity. You can export it as a virtual power plant.”
So the idea is that homeowners, with their strength of numbers, can help reduce the stress on the ERCOT grid by selling and sending back the extra solar energy.
ERCOT said there are currently no VPPs sold in the wholesale market in Texas.
A new pilot program with PUCT allows Tesla and other companies to try to do just that.
It is called the Total Distributed Energy Resource (ADER) Pilot Project.
“This pilot task force, I’m proud to report, and together with ERCOT, is the first to address this in Texas,” Tesla spokeswoman Arushi Sharma Frank said during a Sept. 12 PUCT workshop.
He was part of the task force behind the launch of this pilot.
“The concept is that specific, controllable devices in the home (especially Powerwalls for Tesla) can be connected between customers in a geographic area and participate directly in the wholesale market, including shipping and providing ancillary equipment through the ERCOT marketplace. services,” an ERCOT spokesperson wrote in an email to KXAN.
Tesla Electric requires a Tesla Powerwall, a rechargeable lithium battery that goes inside the house and stores solar energy.
From there, according to Tesla’s website, Tesla’s algorithms monitor electricity prices in the customer’s area and direct their Powerwall to sell extra energy to the grid when prices are high. This is done through his program.
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Kind of like an electricity exchange, Tuttle said.
The company says this is different from other solar buyback plans, which buy additional solar power “when it’s plentiful and cheap.”
All of this will help Tesla Electric customers save on their bills.
Powerwall customers can sell power “when there is more demand and more value,” the website notes. “Compared to other real-time solar feed-back plans, Tesla Electric can help its customers unlock more value from energy exports than real-time solar feed-back plans.”
“This initiative is about Tesla’s customers and it’s about the retail energy offering that Tesla can bring to this market,” Sharma Frank said during public comments at an ERCOT board meeting in July.
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“I think it’s good to have another retailer because it increases the number of competitors in competitive areas,” Tuttle said. On the same subject : Solar Stocks Find More Sure Footing, At Last.
This is their key; You must live in a “competitive area” to be able to buy solar from a private retailer like Tesla.
Because of this, even though Austin has many Powerwall homeowners, they can’t use Tesla Electric; their provider is a municipality or cooperative, such as Austin Energy.
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Your provider will have to partner with Tesla, but you won’t be able to participate in Tesla Electric as an individual homeowner.
Municipalities and cooperatives make up about 25% of the state, ERCOT said. The rest is fair game for solar electric retailers like Tesla.
ERCOT told KXAN that Tesla and other companies are currently trying to pick up customers. The VPP pilot program itself will begin next year.
The spokesman said there would be limits on the amount of energy bought and sold so agencies can analyze the program’s costs and benefits and address issues before expanding.