Move over Walmart - Google wants to change the way we buy power too

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Quick Take:  A week after Walmart said it was changing the way it made and bought power, here comes Google. It is equally determined to alter the business model. But in Google's case, it is not solely concerned with itself. It wants to launch programs all over the country that other companies can take advantage of.

 

Utilities -- look down at your feet. Does the ground seem to be shifting? That's the rug being ever-so-gradually pulled out from under your business model. -- Jesse Berst

 

In a post on the Google blog, Gary Demasi, the company's Director for Global Infrastructure, writes about Google's interest in expanding the use of renewable energy and ways to make more of it available not only to Google but others as well.

 

"The most straightforward way to do this is for utilities to offer a renewable power option for companies that request it—something that’s not currently offered by most utilities," Demasi says. Google has published a white paper calling for a new tariff structure that allows a broad range of companies to buy large quantities of renewable power directly from electric utilities. As the white paper explains it:

 

"The concept of a 'renewable energy tariff' is simple. Utilities would offer companies like Google the choice to buy renewable energy through a new class of service. The service would be voluntary, provided only to those companies that request it but open to all customers that want it and meet basic criteria. 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."

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While the paper outlines a number of advantages, not only for companies, but also for utilities and the communities they serve, it also acknowledges there are challenges, in particular winning approval of regulatory commissions, developing new rate structures and finding additional large-scale, cost-effective renewable projects.

 

But Google isn't waiting around; it also announced it is working with Duke Energy to put its idea into practice. Google is expanding its data center in North Carolina and says Duke has agreed to develop a new program for large companies that want to buy renewable power. Demasi indicates Duke will file a plan with North Carolina regulators within 90 days.

 

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Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.