Trade group raises concerns over GMP’s Tesla program monopoly

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PowerWall
A Tesla Powerwall installed at Luke Tarbi and Summer Jackson in Deerfield Valley. Photo provided by Luke Tarbi

An industry trade group is concerned that an energy conservation program of the state’s largest utility has “monopoly status” in Vermont.

The concerns come at the same time the state has called for an investigation into Green Mountain Power’s Tesla Powerwall program.

Green Mountain Power, which represents 83% of the state’s retail electricity market, is currently awaiting approval to install another 500 Tesla battery storage systems in customer homes.

The units, which are owned by the utility, allow customers to store electricity from solar or grid power to help reduce power consumption during peak hours and have a reserve for them. power outages.

The program also allows the utility to buy back energy stored during peak periods and saved customers about $ 500,000 with the first 2,000 battery systems that were installed, according to GMP.

Renewable Energy Vermont, on the other hand, says the setup means GMP will pick the product and price the battery storage systems in Vermont. They say this means the product will have market dominance that “stifles innovation and stifles competition.”

In a case filed with the Public Utilities Commission, the trade group called for an investigation of the program before moving forward by approving the proposed additional 500 batteries – a sentiment that was echoed by the Department of Function public.

REV says the program “is out of step with other utilities in the country and goes against widespread market trends.”

“When a company decides what type of product and who installs it, it’s very dangerous,” said Olivia Campbell Andersen, executive director of REV. “In other states, it’s not allowed.

She said there are at least half a dozen types of batteries that do the same thing as the Powerwall. Renewable Energy Vermont said it supports consumer protection and customer choice, comparing Powerwall’s situation to a cable network owning your TV and deciding which channels you can watch.

“It’s not good for consumers that monopoly corporations are making this decision for home owners about the products they use and host in their own homes or businesses,” said Campbell Andersen. “This is not good for taxpayers in the long run, and it is not good for the economy of Vermont businesses.”

But Green Mountain Power disagrees. They say customers have a plethora of choices, noting that the program would only bring their total to 2,500 customers with Powerwall systems, out of 265,000 total customers.

GMP President Mary Powell said they have also paid $ 225,000 in incentives for customers to buy batteries from local businesses as an alternative to Tesla systems, as well as more than 13,000 customers who have turned to local businesses to install their own solar power.

“Nothing we do in either of these spaces is a market incentive,” said Powell. “Not only is the product in itself an incentive, but it is also an additional incentive for the market as a whole. “

Campbell Andersen has told Renewable Energy Vermont’s many meetings with GMP that they have had a “very frank dialogue” agreeing on many things but finding themselves at odds with others. She said it’s just something they disagree on.

What they agree on, however, she said, are the benefits of the batteries themselves.

“We don’t want to be negative about the batteries in any way,” said Campbell Andersen. “We just want more people to be able to access the resilience and reliability that home battery systems provide. “

“Our planet is literally on fire,” Powell added. “We need to adopt as many climate solutions as possible as quickly as possible. “

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