Tesla Motors has applied to the UK's power industry regulator, Ofgem, for a licence to become an electricity generator in the country.
Elon Musk’s company has not revealed its exact plans, but a Tesla spokesperson has told Recharge that the application “relates to Autobidder”.
Autobidder is a piece of energy-management software sold by Tesla that “autonomously monetises battery assets” and is aimed at “independent power producers, utilities and capital partners”. The company describes it as “a real-time trading and control platform” that manages assets and portfolios in order to maximise revenue.
The machine-learning software is already used at the world’s largest battery, the 100MW/129MWh Hornsdale project, which Tesla built for developer Neoen in South Australia in 2017.
Under current UK legislation, a generation licence is required for energy-storage operators, which exempts them from consumption levies on the electricity used to charge their systems, thus making projects more economic.
This all suggests that Tesla is planning to build and operate utility-scale batteries in the UK.
The California-based company is most famous for producing electric cars, but it also manufactures batteries — for electric vehicles (EVs), residential systems (marketed as “Powerwall”) and for utility-scale energy storage. It is also working on manufacturing its own solar roof tiles, although these are not yet available for purchase.
It has been speculated that Tesla may have been planning to aggregate the energy from its Powerwall batteries — perhaps combined with rooftop solar panels — to create virtual power plants (VPPs) in the UK, but this seems unlikely as Autobidder cannot manage such systems. Tesla has a different piece of software, Powerhub, for managing distributed energy systems, including VPPs.