Google has long had an interest in renewable energy and has now invested more than $1 billion of its own money in alternative energy projects. However, as the company notes in a blog post and white paper today, it’s not always easy for companies that want to buy renewable energy to do so, given that most utilities don’t yet offer a renewable power option yet. In its white paper, Google lays out a plan that would make it easier for more companies to buy green energy.
Currently, Google says, businesses have the option to install on-site generation (like the solar cells on its Mountain View headquarters’ roof), buy renewable energy certificates or to sign power purchase agreements. All of these approaches, however, Google argues, have significant downsides. On-site generation usually can’t produce enough energy to power a facility 24/7, for example, and renewable energy certificates don’t “provide assurance that the price paid for RECs is being used to support additional investment in new renewable power generation.”
For the most part, companies also have to accept that at least a part of their generation mix includes some carbon-intensive sources. Currently, if a company wants renewable power — and is willing to pay for it — it still can’t get it in most places because it’s simply not being offered.
The reason for this, Google argues, is that historically, utilities never designed their rate schedules around a specific category of power generation (though it’s worth noting that at least some utilities recently started offering this option). Instead, the focus was always purely on cost and reliability.
So how does Google plan to change this? The company wants utilities to 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.” The cost of procuring the renewable energy would only be passed on to those customers who select this option and not impact anybody else.
You can read more about the exact details of the proposal here, and we have embedded the proposal below.
Google also plans to put this plan into action. As part of the planned $600 million expansion of its Lenoir, N.C. data center, the company has partnered with Duke Energy to develop a new program based on its ideas. Duke Energy still has to file this plan with the N.C. state commission, though, which Google says it will do within the next 90 days.