Google Gives $2.65 Million Grant to Promote Smarter Energy Use

The grant is going to the Energy Foundation as part of Google's efforts to help find ways to improve energy use and conservation.

Google is awarding a $2.65 million grant to help fund energy conservation efforts by The Energy Foundation, a group that works to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy in the United States and China.

In a Jan. 14 post on The Official Blog, Michael Terrell, senior policy counsel for energy and sustainability at Google, wrote that the grant is being presented to help find new and innovative ways to solve existing energy problems.

"One of the best parts about working at Google is the chance to use the Internet and digital technology to help us all manage energy better," wrote Terrell. "We've seen big changes in recent years to the way we watch TV, use phones, read and listen to music, yet how we use electricity hasn't changed much in decades."

To achieve that, it requires new ways of looking at the issues, he wrote.

"What if instead of a monthly bill we had access to more real-time and actionable information about our electricity consumption?" wrote Terrell. "What if our appliances, air conditioners and lights adjusted automatically to use energy more efficiently and save money? If we did this in every home, it would help improve the reliability of the grid and save billions of dollars."

Some of that is already possible in 2013 through technology that includes smart electric meters and programmable thermostats, he wrote. "The challenge is that the rules governing electricity distribution were written for last century's grid. That's why is giving a $2.65 million grant to the Energy Foundation to support policy reforms that will lead to more intelligent energy use."

The 2-decade-old Energy Foundation primarily acts as a grant maker, providing grant money to other groups and organizations that can help make these kinds of changes and impacts, according to the group.

The Energy Foundation's partners include Anonymous, ClimateWorks Foundation, Grantham Foundation, Grousbeck Family Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Pisces Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Schmidt Family Foundation, Tilia Fund, TomKat Trust and TOSA Foundation.

The grant will be used to look at improving energy conservation, including the establishment of smarter electricity rates that encourage consumers to be more efficient while shifting their electricity use to times when it's cheaper, as well as producing their own renewable on-site energy, according to Terrell.

The grant will also be used to look at ways of providing access to electricity markets for consumers and other businesses so they can be compensated for cutting energy use at key times, while establishing open data policies that give customers access to their own energy use data so they can see how they use energy and look for ways to conserve power and save money.

"These policy reforms, coupled with the new technologies now being deployed on a large scale, can empower consumers to make smarter energy choices, improve real-time management of the electricity grid, and help facilitate more renewable energy all while lowering overall costs," wrote Terrell.

Google, which is a huge consumer of electricity for its modern data centers, offices and operations around the world, is always looking for ways of conserving energy and using renewable energy sources. The company has been making large investments in wind power for its data centers since 2010.

On Jan. 9, Google announced that it has invested about $200 million in a wind farm in western Texas near Amarillo, as the company continues to expand its involvement in the renewable energy marketplace.

Google's latest investment is at the Spinning Spur Wind Project in Oldham County in the Texas Panhandle.

The 161-megawatt facility was built by EDF Renewable Energy, a company that's built more than 50 other clean energy projects, according to Google. The facility has 70 Siemens wind turbines, each producing 2.3 megawatts of power, which is sent along transmission lines to SPS, a utility serving Texas and New Mexico.

The project is the 11th investment in renewable energy facilities that Google has made since 2010, according to the company. Google so far has invested in wind and solar power facilities that produce more than 2 gigawatts of power, combined.

Other Google renewable energy investments include the Atlantic Wind Connection project, which will span 350 miles of the coast from New Jersey to Virginia to connect 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines; and the Shepherds Flat project in Arlington, Ore., which is one of the world's largest wind farms with a capacity of 845 megawatts. Shepherds Flat began operating in October 2012.