Tesla: People don’t engage with energy bills. But they will have to

Tesla's Powerpack: UK orders being taken
Tesla’s Powerpack: UK orders being taken

Tesla Energy has warned that businesses will soon bear the full costs of a rapidly changing energy market. Boardrooms may face a rude awakening. Meanwhile the company has floated the idea of a UK battery production facility.

Jerry Hamilton, who heads up UK sales of its battery products, urged both businesses and households to wake up to the energy system’s shifting dynamic.

“You used to be able to have a 25 year plan in energy. National Grid’s report this year was so, so different to last year’s,” said Hamilton. “Do not underestimate the speed of change.”

“Lot of businesses have not yet woken up to fact they need to change,” he said. “Over next few years, we are going to be more aligned to having to change.”

Hamilton added that the same applied to households: “People don’t engage with energy bills. They are going to have to engage with them.”

Speaking yesterday at a Docklands event organised by energy software firm Utilidex, Hamilton would not be drawn on when the firm’s commercial scale energy storage unit would begin shipping in volume. He said that the “completely scaleable” Powerpack product was commercially available in the UK and that the firm was working with a select number of developers.

“We want to make sure that we are working with the right contractors and ensure that the experience is right. We are not a boom and bust company. So we are doing projects and we will upscale that.”

Hamilton added that if developers “had a particular project and it is aligned with the right contractor, we will do it now.”

The commercial unit, at 100kWh, is 16 times larger than Tesla’s domestic Powerwall product. The company announced its first domestic install in February this year.

While choosing its partners carefully, Tesla is however taking orders online for the commercial product in the UK.

According to its website, ballpark costs for a 1MW peak power system capable of providing power for four hours would cost around £1.5m including inverters, cabling and site support hardware. Or the same number of units could be configured to give two hours of output with a 2MW peak. However, the cost would increase around £160k because the required number of inverters doubles.

Tesla’s Gigafactory would “produce over half the world’s use of Lithium-Ion” when complete, according to Hamilton, producing 50GWh in annual battery production by 2020 – enough for half a million cars.

“The more we make, the more the price will come down,” he said. “Our main aim is not to hold the price high. Everything that we are doing is to drive that price down to enable the transition to a sustainable future.”

Hamilton added that every Tesla battery sold would be recycled.

“We don’t know how yet, but we are going to do it. The principle is there. Everything in the battery at the end of its life is still valuable to us, the chemicals and the metals. We have designed the factory to bring the factory in and recycle them.”

However, he said that “it would be great” to have a Gigafactory in the UK “in ten year’s time”, to reduce the significant carbon footprint of shipping all of those batteries back to the US.

Hamilton said that solar PV generators would benefit from Powerpack deployment by shifting when they export power to gain higher returns. “If you can shift that by an hour, [the difference in returns] is huge,” he said.

Similarly, in a power system where intermittent generation is creating negative prices, “why not get paid to stick that in a battery?” said Hamilton.

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