Friday, January 08, 2010

Google Gets Into Electricity Marketing Business

Google has applied for approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to become an electricity marketer. This would give Google the authority to buy and sell bulk power at market prices, just the way large utilities and energy traders do. Goggle made the application in December through its Google Energy LLC subsidiary. The company wants to better manage supplies for its own operations and give it greater access to renewable energy sources.

More than 1,500 companies currently have status as energy marketers, the vast majority are utilities or power generators. Google's data centers are the most efficient in the world, with estimates that the company has 24 Google data centers. There are also estimates that data centers consume 30 to 50 megawatts of electrical capacity and Google's largest data centers could use even more. A data center consuming 10 megawatts is about what a subdivision of single-family homes consumes. Based on an estimate of 24 large data centers, Google's energy need would be roughly equivalent to the output of two large conventional power plants.

In 2007, Google announced its intention to become "carbon neutral," meaning it would take actions to neutralize the effects of carbon dioxide produced in the course of furnishing its buildings and data centers with electricity. It installed a 1.6-megawatt solar array on its headquarters building and has been trying to obtain green power.

Google's FERC application could also potentially allow the company to play a much larger role in energy markets, even becoming a wholesaler of electricity to other big buyers. In its application, the company said it was reserving for itself the right to:

"act as a power marketer, purchasing electricity and reselling it to wholesale customers," and trading "in the bulk power markets, such as arranging...transmission and fuel supplies."
Google is partnering with several utilities, including TXU Energy and Sempra Energy, to offer consumers a free energy-use monitoring tool, called Google's PowerMeter, that takes readings from digital "smart" meters and other devices to show a household's energy consumption to help consumers make choices that can save money and cut power industry emissions. That doesn't require permission from FERC. (WSJ, 1/8/10)

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