Tesla launches UK-based virtual power plant project
Tesla has opened its Energy Plan to UK residents with electric vehicles (EVs), encouraging them to install domestic solar generation and batteries to provide flexible energy services to the grid.
It is rolling out the Plan as part of a partnership with Octopus Energy, which has 1.4 million customers in the UK. The Plan is designed to help homes transition to 100% renewable energy. This is provided by a mixture of onsite solar generation – with panel installation and maintenance offered at a reduced cost – and through tariffs.
Once the transition to renewable power is complete, homeowners are encouraged to use their EV or to purchase a small battery storage unit to provide flexibility services. ‘Smart’ technologies enable the battery or vehicle to charge during times of low demand and when the carbon intensity of the grid mix is high, and to discharge when demand peaks. This method purports to reduce bills while helping to secure energy supplies as the grid mix decarbonises.
Tesla and Octopus Energy claim that the Plan can reduce annual electricity bills by up to 75%. It has a flat import rate of 8p per kWh for Tesla owners and 11p per kWh for other customers.
Tesla’s solar offer is not yet available in the UK. However, its Powerwall battery portfolio, which contains both small-scale units for households and larger modular designs for businesses and utilities, is.
Tesla and Octopus aren’t the only companies seeking to scale up ‘smart’ and flexible energy technologies in the UK.
Under Theresa May, the UK Government launched four smart energy systems demonstrator projects across the UK, including a Virtual Energy System (VES) in Orkney and a virtual power plant project in West Sussex.
The developers of the West Sussex project reported in spring that work was progressing to time, despite lockdown restrictions. Once complete, the system will incorporate solar panels, batteries and EV infrastructure to deliver low-carbon power and improved energy security for local council housing, private residential properties, transport infrastructure and commercial properties.
Also in spring, Northern Powergrid and Moixa announced that a two-year trial of virtual power plant systems in Barnsley, Yorkshire, had proven successful. Moixa is notably hosting the world’s largest network of AI-enabled domestic batteries in Japan.
Some have claimed that the UK's energy costs could be cut by 10% if virtual power plants were scaled up nationally.