Commercial, Energy Procurement, Industrial, Regulation, Commercial, Industrial, Regulation, Sourcing Renewables  -  May 12, 2017 - By Amy Poszywak

Google files for utility service alternatives in Nevada

Image credit: turtix / Shutterstock.com

Google Inc. recently added its name to a growing list of corporations looking for alternatives to electric service from Nevada utility NV Energy. 

The tech giant filed a petition with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission on April 25 asking for direction on how a new electric customer should go about obtaining permission to use a supplier alternative to NV Energy.

Over the last year, a series of high-profile electricity customers of the utility had applied for —and in the case of MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Switch were granted — permission to stop buying their electricity from the utility under a 2001 energy crisis-era law. That route required the companies to pay notable exit fees, $87 million in the case of MGM, in order to do so. 

The notable difference between those companies and Google is that Google, presumably, does not yet have a significant electric load in the region. It has, however, recently purchased a large plot of land at an industrial park near Reno. The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that Google purchased 1,210 acres a little more than a week before the April 25 filing with the PUC at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, though Google has not made an official announcement about its plans for the land. 

That being said, at a breakout panel on trends in corporate renewable energy procurement at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Future of Energy Summit in New York City on April 25, Michael Terrell, Google's head of policy and markets, said the developments in Nevada — including the state legislative process underway to explore options for deregulating its electricity market — were something Google was "keeping a close eye on." 

The Reno Gazette-Journal opined that "the most likely candidate — at least in the short term — is a data center, which becomes even more plausible with Google's PUC filing given a data center's energy demands." The newspaper cited an unnamed source who said Google is "exploring its options for competitively acquire power from various sources, with a big focus on clean energy."

Access to renewable energy is a critical consideration for Google, similar to many of the other companies that have sought to purchase their electricity competitively versus through NV Energy. The company announced in December 2016 that it would reach its goal of powering 100% of its operations with renewable energy in 2017; at the time, Urs Hölzle, Google's senior vice president of technical infrastructure, called meeting that goal "just the first step." 

Ultimately, he said, Google wants to "create a world where everyone — not just Google — has access to clean energy," suggesting that the company is planning to play a much more active role in the energy space broadly.

Tags: google, Nevada
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