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Google Proposes New Way to Buy Clean Energy as it Expands NC Facility

Google delivers search results fast, which is why it should be no surprise that late last week when Google introduced a new white paper on establishing renewable energy tariffs for large businesses, it also announced plans to expand its Lenoir, NC, datacenter, where it is working with Duke Energy to put the first such tariff in place. 

Google is no stranger to clean energy, it’s a major purchaser of wind and solar power and was one of the EPA’s Green Power Partners of the year in 2011. It’s also invested over $1 billion in solar, wind and other clean energy projects—including investing $250 million in tax-equity fund to support residential leases and power-purchase agreements or third-party ownership options (TPOs) through SolarCity. It’s also invested in residential TPOs with Clean Power Finance and $168 million in BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, among other solar and wind projects. 

The white paper points out the limited options that large corporations, particularly technology companies like Google or Apple, have for using clean energy, which includes on-site generation, renewable energy certificates and power-purchase agreements. It outlines two key limitations, “First, companies still must accept the generation mix offered by the local electric utility, even if it includes relatively few renewables.” In some states, like North Carolina, for instance, most electricity comes from coal plants, making it hard for the companies to purchase clean energy locally. “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),” Google states. 

To make it easier for such companies to purchase large amounts of renewable energy, Google is proposing creating a renewable energy tariff that would allow companies like it the choice to buy renewable energy through a new class of service. “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 the goal would be to avoid impact on other ratepayers,” it says.

Google contends that establishing such a service would allow the utilities to build or purchase electricity from clean energy-based power plants to serve businesses’ demands while minimizing transaction costs to help lower the costs of clean energy. It can also lead to significant local economic development. The company proposes offering the services first to customers with large electricity loads such as datacenter operators, but says that it could work with any customer group with significant energy demand. 

The search-engine company also is already working with Duke Energy to create such a tariff and says Duke has pledged to propose a tariff to North Carolina’s energy commission within 90 days. 

The move drew approval from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA). “With Google’s move on Friday, you have one of the country’s most innovative and visionary companies demonstrating its solid commitment to renewable energy as a winning business strategy and a sound economic move,” says NCSEA Executive Director Ivan Urlaub.

The proposal also provides a potent counterpoint to legislation that threatens North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard, which is at jeopardy of being eliminated by a bill (HB 298) that’s worming its way through the legislature. “This is proof that North Carolina’s clean energy policies like the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) are succeeding at creating a pro-growth business climate that benefits local economies, governments, and citizens around the state,” Urlaub contends. 

The original article was posted on the SolarReviews blog


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