Google Can Now Buy
by Michael W. Jones
Google has been sanctioned by the U.S. government to buy and sell power, though it is unlikely that it wants to be a latter-day Enron. Instead, the largest search company may just want to save money on power.
Permission has been granted by The United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that will allow Google to deal in the bulk energy marketplace. It has a valid reason for such a permit, in that it is a truly prodigious consumer of energy by way of its data centers. An article in the New York Times notes that Google's data center in The Dalles, OR could require as much as 103 megawatts of power to run once it is at full capacity – enough to power the city of Oakland, CA for four months.
The power to deal with "the sale of energy, capacity, and ancillary services at market-based rates" has been granted to Google even though neither Google, Google subsidiary Google Energy, nor its affiliates "own or control any generation or transmission" facilities. That does make sense in the short term, because it seems that Google is only immediately seeking the right to exercise more control over electricity pricing to more effectively gain access to affordable renewable energy.
When they applied for the FERC permit in January, Google representative Niki Fenwick said "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 could imply some interest in the energy business in the medium or long term.
Google does, after all, dabble in the energy business, mainly through the subsidiary Google Energy, the official holder of the energy buy and sell permit. The company founders invested in the electric car manufacturer Tesla, and Eric Schmidt has even presented a comprehensive plan to the U.S. government showing exactly how the country could quickly change to deriving all of it's energy from renewable sources. It is also involved in developing an energy-monitoring device that could be controlled from a cell phone. So there is a good chance that Google would like to have a share in the U.S. energy marketplace, proving that Google is more than just search.
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