Sunday Jan 29, 2023

Tesla to Texas: Help us help you – Protocol


Tesla is pushing for changes to Texas’ energy market rules that would allow anyone with solar panels or battery storage to essentially sell excess power back to the grid. The company wants residential owners to be able to participate in the market, including, of course, owners of Tesla’s residential products, like its Powerwall.

Tesla is framing its ask as a bid to insulate the Texas grid from the kinds of demand spikes that have caused major blackouts in the past: a gesture of good corporate citizenship, if you will. It doesn’t hurt that it would come with the added benefit of making Tesla’s products even more attractive.

Tesla filed a request for a rule change with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which is in charge of the state’s independent grid, asking that it allow utility customers sell excess power back to the grid as they’re allowed to do in most other electricity set-ups nationwide.

This would be a major financial benefit for those with solar panels or battery storage technology at home. For instance, Tesla’s Powerwall products allow people to store their own solar power to use as their own backup — individual storage capacity means that “when the grid goes down your power stays on,” the company says.

And in Texas, the grid going down is far from a remote possibility. Texas’ independent grid is particularly vulnerable to blackouts, as evidenced by the major outage caused by a cold snap and spiking power demand in February 2021.

If regulators were to change the rule as Tesla is requesting, homeowners could collectively serve as a backup for the grid as a whole, preventing it from shutting down entirely in the case of excess demand.

According to a LinkedIn post from Tesla’s energy markets policy lead Arushi Sharma Frank, the company keeps hearing that it will take 4-6 years to change the state’s rules. Tesla wants to speed it up — i.e. this year — and so the company is asking the ERC to expedite the filing process accordingly.

Tesla’s previous lobbying has been focused primarily on being allowed to deploy its Megapack batteries at the utility level, an effort that would have virtually no impact on users of the company’s residential energy products. Should this latest effort succeed, however, Tesla is potentially making it a lot more attractive for individual Texans to generate and store their own renewable energy: a boon both for their wallets and for the grid.


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