Google has won the approval of the Federal Energy Regulator Commission so that it can now buy and sell energy. But before you start to think that Google will be building its own power plants, this is not the reason it has chosen to obtain regulatory permission. Google wants to go carbon neutral, and has already taken it upon itself to dabble in new technologies. As many of you already know, Google was one of the first companies in Silicon Valley to go solar.
By obtaining regulatory approval, it places the company in a better status to obtain a carbon neutral position. A recent article also states:
Google’s Niki Fenwick told us last month that Google has no plans to become an energy seller but that the creation of Google Energy is an attempt to proactively address hurdles it could face in its plans to go carbon neutral. Given the legal permission to act as a utility — basically buying and selling clean energy (it owns a large rooftop solar project at its headquarters) — Google could help offset its carbon emissions that result from its large power needs.
It’s actually not all that crazy for a large company — particularly one that consumes a lot of energy and has high energy bills — to seek that status. Last month Nathaniel Bullard, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, pointed out to me that Wal-Mart created Texas Retail Energy, which allows it to procure its own power and get the lowest-cost electricity for their warehouses and retail stores. When news about Wal-Mart’s energy firm came out in 2007 there was a lot of speculation that Wal-Mart would get into the electricity selling business, too, and Wal-Mart said, at the time, that it hadn’t fully ruled that out for the long term.
Well, now Google, like Wal-Mart, has managed to gain approval to buy and sell energy. And specifically, the application says: “Google Energy states that it intends to act as a power marketer, purchasing electricity and reselling it to wholesale customers.” Interestingly enough, the California Public Utilities Commission also filed a motion to intervene in the application, shortly after Google filed it.
Which makes one wonder. Could we consumers receive cheaper electrical rates from the likes of Walmart or Google? I can see how some power companies could fear this type of competition.