Google grants $2.6M to influence energy policy

Google is spending $2.65 million to influence policy changes that “will lead to more intelligent energy use,” according to a post on the company’s blog.

The grant, given to the Energy Foundation through the Internet search giant’s Google.org arm, is meant to advance the way consumers pay for electricity by incorporating more real-time information into their decisions.

For example, technology could detect high energy use and automatically shift appliance activity and energy consumption to times and rates that make more sense, helping to relieve strain on the grid, according to the Google blog post published last week.

“Technology like smart meters and programmable thermostats make it possible to do this today,” Michael Terrell, Google.org senior policy counsel for energy and sustainability, wrote on the blog. “The challenge is that the rules governing electricity distribution were written for last century’s grid.”

Terrell wrote that Google plans to focus its policy changes on encouraging:

  • Smarter electricity rates that encourage consumers to be more efficient, shift their electricity use to times when it’s cheaper and produce their own on-site energy;
  • Access to electricity markets for consumers and other businesses so they can be compensated for cutting energy use at key times; and
  • Open data policies that give customers access to their own energy information, which they can use or share with third parties they select, promoting better energy management tools and services.

Such changes would lower costs for consumers and enable “smarter energy choices,” Terrell said.

Aside from this grant, Google has invested more than $1 billion in companies and projects that can advance “a clean energy future.”

One of the company’s largest energy investments is a $200 million play in a Texas wind farm with a capacity of 161 megawatts.