Google Given OK to Buy & Sell Energy

By Published On: February 19, 2010

Federal regulators cleared the way for Google to buy and sell power into the wholesale energy market. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission February 18 voted unanimously to give Google Energy LLC market-based authority to trade energy, capacity, and ancillary services. “We are transferring into a new energy era,” said Phil Moeller, FERC commissioner. Google Energy LLC joins other large industrial heavyweights granted market-based power authority by federal regulators, including Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, Safeway, and Kimberly Clark, the consumer products company. Google Energy LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary formed by Google last December to trade power--ostensibly renewable resources. The subsidiary is a Delaware based firm. Niki Fenwick, Google spokesperson, said the company stands by its stated commitment to pursue the trading of alternative resources. “FERC authority will improve our ability to hedge our purchases of energy and incorporate renewables into our energy portfolio.” As to the source of Google’s power, Gary Ackerman, Western Power Trading Forum executive director, quipped, “They’ll need to search for energy using one of their engines.” Permission to become a wholesale power marketer is granted by the federal commission after a company demonstrates it does not own or control generating, transmission, or distribution facilities and that it would not restrict the electric or gas markets, according to Jaime Chabinsky, FERC attorney. She noted that the authority given to Google does not extend to buying and selling power into the retail energy market. As a condition of winning market-based authority, Google is required to file quarterly reports to FERC detailing its long- and short-term contracts. It also is required to inform regulators of any change in its status, on par with other traders granted market-based authority. “Hopefully, this will calm any waters,” said Moeller of the federal reporting requirements in response to concerns about Google’s expansion into energy markets. The Mountain View-based company filed with FERC for power marketer status in December 2009. Its December 23 filing states that Google plans to buy energy for its own demand, including its data centers, “to contain and manage the cost of energy.” It also noted it plans to enter the market to “facilitate efficient trade in the bulk power market, such as arranging services in related areas such as transmission and fuel supplies.” Google has not applied to trade on the California Independent System Operator wholesale power exchange. It is active in California’s “smart meter” program and legislation. The company expects to provide information from smart meters to customers on energy usage and price via computer.

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