Can Amber Electric Win Back Tesla Powerwall Customers?


Amber Powerwall onboarding

Amber Electric recently put a hold on adding new Tesla Powerwalls to their novel electricity plan, thanks to some tricky issues between Amber’s SmartShift app and Tesla’s Powerwall control software. The good news? They’re back on track and ready to roll with Powerwalls again. But the big question remains – after this little stumble, can Amber rebuild the trust of their Powerwall customers?

A Quick Recap Of Events

What The Hell Is Amber Electric?

Amber Electric offers Eastern state solar battery owners access to wholesale electricity prices, and a SmartShift app that can control your battery to maximise savings as electricity prices fluctuate throughout the day.

Amber says that, unlike traditional VPPs, their SmartShift service enables them to pass on the full financial benefits to users while only charging a flat $19 per month subscription fee. Users can choose when to charge, discharge, or preserve battery power without any lock-in period.

What Was The Problem?

Tesla Powerwall owners were loving Amber’s SmartShift a bit too much, causing a flood of commands to Tesla’s systems. This clash of popularity between Amber and Tesla created a bottleneck, messing with users’ control over their batteries via the Amber app.

Powerwall owners and Amber customers didn’t hold back in their comments on the SolarQuotes article that originally reported the Powerwall problems. Beyond the tech hiccups and control dramas, there were some complaints on the money side of things. Turns out, for some, joining the program might not be the cash cow they expected, especially when stacked against what traditional retailers offer.

Also, doubts have been raised about SmartShift’s ability to fine-tune battery performance and manage energy usage effectively, leading to some user frustration and a dip in confidence in the system. It’s important to note, these concerns come from individual experiences and may not reflect everyone’s views. Despite these issues, a number of users voiced their support, willing to wait for Amber to navigate through these initial ‘teething problems’.

Changes To Amber’s Battery Commands

To address the technical challenges, Amber has implemented several changes to its SmartShift service tailored to Tesla Powerwall customers. Here’s a breakdown as outlined on Amber’s general information page:

  • Spreading out battery commands: We will begin spreading out commands so we never send more commands to your battery at any given time than is allowed by our partners (Tesla). This means all battery commands sent by SmartShift will get delivered. This is in contrast to the current approach, when some commands might time out before they can be executed.
  • Scheduling battery commands: Previously, if a 30-minute battery discharge was required, SmartShift would send a series of six five-minute commands. This occurred even if the new command was the same as the last. The new system sends one 30-minute command in this instance. This would mean that even if the start of the command is delayed, you’ll still catch a majority of the event.
  • Grouping battery commands during price spikes: To make sure we minimise any delays in exporting during these times (price spikes), we will implement a special group control mode for Tesla batteries. In cases where there’s a price spike (feed-in tariffs over $3/kWh), we will send one 5-minute group command at the beginning of the price spike to all devices in a given state. This will allow customers to get the most out of high export prices while individual commands are queued up.”

Amber’s Unresolved Issues

Amber acknowledges that the new approach still has some limitations. Customers with Smartshift disabled, and those who have manual control commands in place will see their batteries discharged briefly during feed-in tariff price spikes. Amber says they are working with Tesla to try to change this.

Based on customer feedback, this is still a concern for many users who wish to maintain control of their batteries during these events.

Additionally, Amber says there might be times when commands are delayed up to five minutes and suggests:

“If you see times when you think your battery should be taking action but it isn’t, it may be worth waiting for five minutes.” 1

Whether Amber’s new approach is enough to woo back their old customers or even entice some new ones remains to be seen. For those readers wishing to get further insights into Amber Smartshift, Jonathon from SolarQuotes has given his anecdotal experience in a couple of reviews, the latest of which you can read here.


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