Creative ideas come from everywhere, but it's not often you see a search engine giving utilities business advice. A new white paper from Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) could improve renewable energy's value add for tech companies, utilities, and renewable-energy stakeholders everywhere. Here's what you need to know.
Ramping up renewables
Google may seem like nothing more than a search page, but its energy use is astounding. To offset its emissions, the company has invested more than $1 billion in renewable-energy projects, installed solar panels at its Mountain View headquarters, and purchased more than 260 MW of wind power to help power its data centers.
Google isn't alone, either. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) currently relies on renewables for 75% of its worldwide energy use, a respectable jump from its 35% capacity in 2010.
Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) ranked as the No. 1 green power purchaser in 2012, buying up more than 1.3 billion killowatt hours of renewable-energy credits -- the equivalent of taking 185,000 cars off the road each year.
But as much as going green gives PR a positive push, Google is fed up with the current system. As its energy arrangements currently stand, the corporation has to purchase "pre-mixed" energy packages from utilties that might be carbon-heavy. In other words, the only way companies like Google can currently guarantee their greenness is to work with 100% renewable-energy companies or build the facilities themselves.
Google announced in April that it will double its initial $600 million investment in a new North Carolina data center -- and it's ready to rely on renewables.
In partnership with North Carolina-based utility Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), the companies are piloting a new purchasing arrangement that would allow Duke to charge Google directly for the added expense of renewable energies. That means Google gets the full green go-ahead, while Duke's 7.2 million other customers aren't hit with higher power bills.
This "renewable energy tariff" is a win-win, providing ultimate choice to energy sellers and buyers. This opt-in approach paves the way for direct demand, allowing utilities to focus on renewables while keeping costs affordable for other clients.
There could even be secondary benefits as tech companies such as Google, Apple, or Intel offer up their engineering innovation to increase efficiencies and cut their own costs.
General Electric (NYSE:GE) revealed its most powerful wind turbine yet last week, and renewable-energy utility NextEra Energy promptly grabbed 59 for its newest wind farm. But although GE's turbines offer streaming data gathering to maximize output, supercomputer systems to manage massive wind farms have lagged far behind. With a glance from Google, smart solutions could be on the horizon sooner than anyone expects.
Can renewables rock it?
Renewable energy regulations are ripe for renewal, and rulemakers nationwide should give Google's new proposal serious consideration. Stifling supply is a recipe for disaster, and a move like this would prove profitable for all parties involved. Let Google go green.