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Internet giant Google, which has invested over $1 billion in renewable energy to date, has proposed a new tariff-based approach to allow companies to purchase electricity generated by renewable sources directly from utilities.

In a white paper, Google outlines common methods through which companies procure or support renewable energy, including on-site generation, renewable energy certificates (RECs) and power purchase agreements. However, the company says, these methods can be cumbersome.

“First, companies still must accept the generation mix offered by the local electric utility, even if it includes relatively few renewables. In some locations, the generation mix can be quite carbon-intensive,” Google says in the white paper. “Second, companies cannot request and procure renewables directly from the local utility in a transparent and straightforward manner, where they know how much renewable power they are getting (and from where).

“With few exceptions, utilities and the state commissions that regulate them do not provide a way for large users to request renewable power,” the company continues. “In short, even though companies want renewable power and are willing to pay for it, the product is not being offered.”

The company believes a voluntary “renewable energy tariff” program would prove a better alternative to the aforementioned energy-procurement methods. Through such a tariff-based service, Google says procurement costs would be passed on to companies that choose to enter the program and purchase renewable energy, rather than on to other utility ratepayers. These costs would be transparent to the participant and at a rate reflecting “the actual cost of service.”

Google’s proposed structure for a tariff also includes an integrated service that provides electricity both from dedicated renewable energy sites and from supplemental, non-renewable sources when necessary to ensure continuous service. This, Google says, would help mitigate various issues with intermittent renewable energy generation.

Under Google’s proposal, companies would be able to choose which renewable energy resources they want to purchase or support, as well as receive all associated RECs to ensure the certificates are retired.

“We believe that a renewable energy tariff will provide a powerful tool for accelerating the growth of renewable energy,” Google says in its white paper. “It offers a solid and workable framework for both utilities and their large customers seeking to procure renewables.”

The company notes that it is up to regulatory bodies, such as state utility commissions, to determine a framework for a renewable energy tariff, but Google plans to work with all stakeholders to get such a tariff established.

To read Google’s white paper, click here.


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