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Google Greens up Big Coal

Think Green
Think Green

After years of criticism and lobbying from environmental groups as well as concerned customers, utility providers are making moves toward offering services using renewable resources. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Duke Energy is the largest electric power holding company in the United States. Late last year the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved a proposal by Duke Energy to launch a pilot program called the, "Green Source Rider." The Green Source Rider pilot will allow Duke Energy to sell energy from renewable sources to its large corporate customers such as Google.

Customer Pressure
With the astronomical growth in the use of computers and digital technology over the past few decades, data centers have become the fastest growing consumers of electricity and the biggest customers of energy companies. Innovative technology giants such as Google and Facebook that consume a massive amount of electricity and offer products and services that require their customers to consume electricity have aggressively sought ways to conserve resources by using renewable energy sources. As a result, in early 2013 Google announced that it would partner with Duke Energy to increase the development of renewable energy sources focusing on decidedly low-tech resources: the sun and the wind.

The Green Source Rider will likely have a significant impact on Duke Energy's business. Google, with a large data center in Lenoir, NC, is one of Duke's largest customers. Furthermore, other tech giants are also looking to increase their use of renewable energy sources. Apple, Facebook, and other large companies also have data centers in North Carolina. Now that Duke Energy has secured approval for its plan from North Carolina regulators, other companies that consume massive amounts of electricity are likely to look to Duke Energy to provide them with electricity from "green" sources.

The Duke Energy Plan
Electricity from renewable sources is not a new concept. Large and small consumers have used renewable sources as power for years. However, it is cumbersome and expensive for large corporate customers that consume a substantial amount of electricity to regularly access such green resources. A company would have to put in place a complicated system that involves power purchase agreements and sometimes the building of the renewable resource. With Duke Energy's plan, Duke Energy would undertake the tasks of building or securing the renewable resources that its customers require.

While it will be quite an investment for Duke Energy to put in place the systems to offer green energy to its customers, such an investment makes sense. Not only would high tech giants like Google take advantage of the service, many other Fortune 500 companies would likely as well. Most such companies have targets of consuming more energy from green sources and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas that they contribute to the environment. In other words, Duke Energy's initiative is not just good for the environment, it is good for Duke Energy's bottom line.

Duke Energy's pilot program is only available to qualified customers. To qualify, a customer must add at least 1 megawatt of new demand through expansion or relocation. Only a small handful of large corporate customers would qualify. A few questions that I would love your input on are: How can Duke Energy use the Green Source Rider as a basis to establish a program that would allow both smaller business customers as well as residential customers to easily and affordably access green energy? Is the production of green energy safer than traditional energy production?

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