* Google applies to FERC for trading permit late December
* Aims to buy more renewable energy, become carbon neutral
* Does not plan energy trading as a new line of business
(Recasts with Google comment, background)
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Google Inc (GOOG.O) has asked the main U.S. energy regulator for authority to trade electricity in the wholesale market, which will make it easier for the Internet search giant to obtain renewable energy to power its huge data centers as part of its green initiative.
In its filing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in late December, the company said its Google Energy LLC subsidiary wants the authority “to contain and manage the cost of energy for Google.”
“We’re interested in procuring more renewable energy as part of our carbon neutrality commitment, so we applied for the ability to buy and sell energy on the wholesale market to give us more flexibility,” Google spokeswoman Niki Fenwick said on Friday.
The company in December pledged on its blog “Going green at Google” to make its operations carbon neutral and reduce greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Fenwick said Google does not have any plans to make the energy markets a new line of business, except that the company may sell any surplus renewable energy it does not use.
Other companies that consume a lot of electricity have been given similar authority by FERC to help control their energy costs.
“It’s routine,” an agency spokeswoman said of Google’s application.
Information technology and telecommunications facilities account for approximately 120 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually — or 3 percent of all U.S. electricity use, according to the Energy Department.
Rapid growth in the U.S. data center industry is projected to require two new large power plants per year just to keep pace with the expected demand growth, the department says.
Google told FERC it does not own or control any facilities that generate electricity to sell in the wholesale markets and the extent of its electric generation ownership is to provide power solely to the company’s facilities and for emergency backup power.
The company asked FERC to approve its request by Feb. 23. Google officials could not immediately be reached for comment. (Reporting by Tom Doggett; additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe in Washington and Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco Oreskovic; Editing by Marguerita Choy)