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Google’s Plan to Procure Renewable Energy

April 24, 2013 By Linda Hardesty

Google data centerGoogle committed an additional $600 million investment in its Lenoir, NC data center site, and said its local electricity provider, Duke Energy, has pledged to develop a new program for large companies like Google that want to buy renewable power for their operations.

Duke will file the plan with the NC state commission within 90 days.

The Google-Duke Energy news seems to run counter to news just a few weeks ago that a North Carolina house panel began the process of repealing a law that requires state electric utilities to generate a certain amount of power from renewable energy. And one of the main sponsors of House Bill 298, Mike Hagar, has arranged for the Public Utilities and Energy Committee to consider the bill today on a rushed schedule.

Despite some anti-renewables sentiment in the North Carolina legislature, Google has penned a whitepaper, Expanding Renewable Energy Options for Companies Through Utility-Offered Renewable Energy Tariffs, in which it outlines an approach for a broad range of companies to buy large amounts of renewable power directly from electric utilities.

Google plans to adhere to two fundamental principles in its approach to procuring renewable power: First, its efforts must result in additional renewable power generation, preferably near its data centers. And second, it wants its activities to be scalable to address problems that limit the growth of renewable energy.

While Google has used all of the current approaches to procure renewable energy: on-site generation, RECs and the use of power purchase agreements on the wholesale markets, its white paper explains there are problems with each of these:

“First, companies still must accept the generation mix offered by the local electric utility, even if it includes relatively few renewables. In some locations the generation mix can be quite carbon intensive. Second, companies cannot request and procure renewables directly from the local utility in a transparent and straightforward manner, where they know how much renewable power they are getting (and from where). With few exceptions, utilities and the state commissions that regulate them do not provide a way for large users to request renewable power. In short, even though companies want renewable power and are willing to pay for it, the product is not being offered.”

Google wants a new tariff structure that allows companies to purchase renewable energy directly from their utilities. A key aspect of the tariff is that the costs of procuring the renewable power would be passed on to the customer that has elected this option so as to avoid impact on other ratepayers.

“Initially, we propose offering the service to customers with large electricity loads such as data center operators, but it’s a model that could work with any customer group that has sufficient load and is willing to commit to using such tariffs,” says the white paper.



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