Google announced on Friday that it would be partnering with Duke Energy, the largest energy utility in the US, to promote a plan that would increase the development of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Under the plan, large companies looking to go green could pay more to use green power, which would give electrical providers such as Duke the incentive to rapidly invest in renewable energy. The plan is almost a common sense measure — if a company wants renewable energy, it can pay more for it — but it currently isn't allowed in many states.
For energy providers such as Duke, partnering with Google can help the company to please its major customers. “These companies are highly sought after by utilities,” Greenpeace analyst Gary Cook told The Verge. Technology companies' data centers are major new sources of electricity demand, which gives those companies some say over energy providers' policies.
But those same data centers have received criticism from organizations such as Greenpeace, and companies including Apple and Google are looking to operate using more renewable energy sources. Google's new plan must be approved on a state-by-state basis, but it's beginning in a location that can benefit a number of major companies, including itself, Apple, and Facebook, each of which has a data center in the state.
In many areas, including North Carolina, renewable energy isn't capable of meeting the demands of these large tech companies. One option of dealing with this has been to purchase "credits" from green power generated elsewhere in the US, but this can stifle demand for renewable sources within each state — Google's plan would help to stop this practice by allowing large companies to monetarily incentivize power providers to acquire or build new green energy sources.
While it would require an investment from Duke Energy and other utilities, it isn't a bad move on their part: Cook points out that development of renewable energy sources can help to control volatility from non-renewable sources in the long run, and for consumers such as Google and Apple, it advances company goals to use clean power. As Duke spokesperson Jeff Brooks told The Verge, "It's a win-win."