Google Energy LLC files at FERC

Michael Giberson

First Google PowerMeter, then Google.org invests in renewable power R&D and now a Google entity – Google Energy LLC – files at FERC to become a wholesale power marketer. What’s going on?

At the EU Energy Policy Blog, Fereidoon Sioshansi examines “Power Marketer Google“:

Google has a habit of surprising its competitors. The fast moving company is known for launching into new forays not always knowing where it may end up. In this sense, it is not only the competitors who are trying to read what the company’s latest move may entail.

In early January, Google submitted an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeking approval to become a power marketer. There are approximately 1,500 entities in the US who have FERC’s blessing to operate as power marketers. Most are utility companies, power generators or pure traders, companies who buy and sell power at wholesale prices and serve as intermediaries between generators and large consumers. Some are large energy-intensive electricity users such as Alcoa and Safeway with hundreds of supermarkets across the country. But why Google?

Google is closed mouthed about its full intentions, only acknowledging that as a power marketer it could “better manage (electricity) supplies for its own operations” and have “greater access to renewable energy resources.” Both are reasonable reasons to seek official power marketing status….

The Google Energy LLC application does go on a bit about selling ancillary services, and the rate schedule submitted identifies a complete list of ancillary service products it wishes to be able to trade in the organized regional markets and with third parties in areas outside of the regional markets.  The seeming focus on ancillary services suggests some interesting possibilities: most of the regional markets provide some ability for large consumers to supply reserve services, for example, and increasing the availability of ancillary services would ease integration of renewable power to the power grid, something Google favors.

But actually the filing is just trying to be exhaustive in its listing of products that it may trade, either because Google doesn’t want to inadvertently reveal strategic plans or because they haven’t yet decided on a specific set of plans and so simply seek flexibility to pursue opportunities as they emerge.  And, in fact, it is fairly common for power marketers to submit relatively general requests for market-based rate authority. (I.e. compare the Google Energy LLC filing linked below to the quite similar filing of Monarch Global Energy, Inc., a generalized electricity services consultant, in ER10-583-001.)

So few clues yet as to Google’s plans and maybe Google hasn’t yet fixed on a plan. But it is an interesting move coming on top of the other energy actions the company has taken.  Competitors, potential trading partners, and electric power market geeks will be watching.

Links to Google Energy LLC’s filings at FERC:

UPDATED February 18, 2010: FERC has approved Google’s request for market-based rate authority. (See item E-18 on this summary of decisions and a related Dow Jones news item.)


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