Elon Musk’s plan to “operate as a giant distributed utility” is creeping towards reality.
First, Tesla piloted a “virtual power plant” in California, where Powerwall home battery owners were invited to sell electricity back to the grid at peak times to mitigate brownouts. Soon after, the automaker expanded the effort into Australia and Japan, and next it’s coming to Texas — with a twist.
On Thursday, the company announced Tesla Electric, an electric plan exclusively offered in parts of Texas where retail choice is available, like Houston and Dallas. The product turns Tesla into a retail electric provider in the Lone Star state, and allows Powerwall owners to sell some of their excess electricity back to the grid, with Tesla as the go-between.
Crucially, this product is invite-only. If you own one of Tesla’s big batteries and have a home in a deregulated part of Texas, you’ll “see a banner appear on your Powerwall home page in the Tesla app,” Tesla said.
Tesla Electric builds on its vision to grow well beyond automaking, however other car makers are also toying with this idea, including GM, which is working with solar seller SunPower; and Toyota, which said today that it is teaming up with a utility in Texas.
Tesla’s energy business has seen some highs and lows this year. In July, Tesla said its solar business had notched its best quarter in several years. Four months later, a report from Electrek said that Tesla had recently canceled some of its solar reservations and laid off workers in the department.