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Tesla Could Reshape Texans’ Relationship With The Electric Grid

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

The company has filed to sell electricity on the Texas market, which would be a first step in “breaking away” from the 20th century retail model, says a Texas Monthly reporter.

From Texas Standard:

Tesla founder Elon Musk is looking to reshape Texans' relationship with the state's electric grid.

Tesla recently filed with the Texas Public Utility Commission to be able to sell electricity to consumers.

But Russell Gold, a reporter for Texas Monthly, says Musk's ambitions are far greater than just being a broker between energy producers and consumers. Gold told Texas Standard that selling electricity would be the company's first step in helping create a more integrated energy consuming and producing system – one that would require new software and batteries.

Gold says Musk is "breaking away" from the 20th-century system.

"If you think about, like, a Nest thermostat, they'll be taking that concept – control your whole house – to the next step so that each individual house can be its own power plant in a way, sometimes buying power, sometimes selling power and and really giving homeowners that much more control," Gold said.

Today, most electricity consumers have a one-sided relationship with the grid. They simply pay for what power they consume. Some consumers who have solar panels do sell unused energy back to the grid, but Gold says that reselling would likely become much more common if Tesla expands the way it's expected to. Tesla would help facilitate that reselling. Not only that, it would manufacture the batteries consumers use to store that extra power.

Gold even expects that Tesla would sell packages that include not only electricity but equipment like its Powerwall home battery and solar panels. So far, it's unclear what such a bundle would cost.

Also, Tesla still needs to be approved to sell electricity in the Texas market. But Gold says Musk recently told investors that he expects the energy side of his company to become as large as the vehicle manufacturing side.

"He certainly sees lots of potential growth in getting, becoming a retailer, getting in touch with consumers ... in addition to generating electricity, storing it in these giant batteries that they're building," he said.

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Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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