Google Throws Hat Into Energy Ring

Last week Google Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Google, Inc, was granted the power “to act as a power marketer, purchasing electricity and reselling it to wholesale customers” by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  With this news, it became even more apparent that Google is serious about their goal to become a carbon neutral company.  The FERC authorization gives Google Energy the ability to buy and sell power produced at market-rate. Google can now supply power to itself without having to worry about overproduction.  Currently, Google’s stance is that they do not plan on acting as a private utility, but simply would like to have greater control over their own energy expenses.

“Right now, we can’t buy affordable, utility-scale, renewable energy in our markets. We want to buy the highest quality, most affordable renewable energy wherever we can and use the green credits.”

“We don’t have any concrete plans. We want the ability to buy and sell electricity in case it becomes part of our portfolio.”

This venture into the energy arena shows that, just like their recent entrance into the mobile phone market, Google intends to use their computing power, economic resources, and focus on technological advance to be competitive and drive innovation.

Google has already done much in the area of energy technology through their work to achieve their carbon neutral goal.  For instance, they have increased the efficiency of their operations to the point that they claim to have the “worlds most efficient data centers”.  Google’s power management software and expertise would be a useful service to any future customers of Google Energy.

Comparison of data center power usage (

Google has also spurred innovation in energy technology through their RE<C program, which aims to find a renewable energy source suitable for electricity generation that is cheaper than coal.  The program aims to produce 1 GW of energy using renewable energy as soon as possible through investments, promotion of technologies, and with the use and development of Google technology.

Google’s entrance into the energy industry is promising for the advancement of grid technology. Google’s PowerMeter, introduced February 2009, enables users to track their energy usage habits. The smart grid, which will modernize power transmission and distribution using smart meters and centralized data processing, stands to gain with the participation of computing giant Google – especially now that they can interact with the grid more effectively as a utility and not just another customer.

Google has already shown that they can use their drive for technological innovation to capture huge shares of the search, online advertisement, and email markets.  With demonstration of their ability to act on their carbon neutral goal (for instance, by building the largest corporate-owned installation of photovoltaic  solar panels at their Mountain View, California headquarters) it is not likely that they will fail in meeting it.  The question is, what will Google do after they have become a carbon neutral company?  It’s not likely that they will stop innovating and driving energy technology further.  We will just have to wait to find out what kind of results Google will get.  While we wait, we all know where to start in our search to find out more about their progress.

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