Earlier this month, Tesla quietly launched a call to customers equipped with its Powerwall batteries: join what could become the biggest behind-the-meter battery aggregation in California and help support the state’s grid during what’s expected to be a tough summer for keeping the lights on.
What Tesla isn’t offering these Powerwall volunteers, at least for now, is payment for their participation.
Instead, the company has positioned its Tesla Virtual Power Plant project as a “public good program to support the California grid.” That puts its new call into the same class of voluntary actions that it and other solar-battery vendors undertook last summer to help prevent a repeat of the rolling outages that left hundreds of thousands of Californians without power for hours at a time on the evenings of August 14 and 15, 2020.
Whether Tesla can turn this volunteer-based effort into a money-making proposition, as the company suggests it could do in the future, will depend on several factors, according to analysts.
Those include whether enough customers will sign up to give Tesla the critical mass of participants needed to pursue money-making pathways for grid services in California. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment, and its Virtual Power Plant website doesn’t state whether or how it might pursue such opportunities.
“Tesla doesn’t have a revenue stream lined up for this project. In a sense, it’s aggregating first and setting up the revenue stream after,” Isaac Maze-Rothstein, an analyst with research firm Wood Mackenzie, said in an interview last week.