Tomorrow Investor

The Greening of the Grid: The Potential Impact of Clean Energy


A new study from Princeton University reveals that the per-hour procurement of clean energy within an electrical grid can lead to less greenhouse gas emissions than a complete 180-turn to 100% clean energy.

Produced by Princeton’s ZERO Lab, the study is the first time that experts have noted how 24/7 zero-carbon electricity procurement can impact the grid. The shift has become increasingly popular among corporate and institutional power buyers.

The study’s key findings noted that 24/7 zero-carbon power procurement substantially decreases greenhouse gas emissions related to a buyer’s power consumption; can actually lead to greater emissions reduction on the system level; pushes the early deployment of clean firm generation as well as long-term power storage; and moves inexorably towards the full replacement of natural gas power generation facilities. 

However, the same study noted that hour-by-hour procurement would also be more expensive than a full annual matching clean energy procurement.

Meanwhile, another study called Clean Power by the Hour pointed out that costs were higher with hourly load matching than those for annual procurement targets. It was also noted that the reduction of near-term emissions for hourly load matching is dependent on regional grids. On a more optimistic note, however, experts also say that strategies for hourly procurement may actually open doors into the field for emergent tech.

According to the authors of Clean Power by the Hour, hourly load matching may serve as the foundation for a decarbonized grid. However, related strategies would need to be tailored to grid dynamics specific to each region. In addition, there would be a need to amp up the reduction of emissions in the near future. 

They also stated that buyers who have yet to offset the totality of their yearly power usage with clean energy could move forward, confident in the knowledge that shifting to renewable power will result in tangible benefits for the environment.

One of the first companies to purchase renewable energy straight from PPAs is tech giant Google which has been carbon-neutral since 2007. As of this month, the company is currently shifting from 100% annual renewable power matching to 24/7 hourly load matching. They mean to hit their target by 2030.

According to Google global energy market development and policy lead Devon Swezey, the main goal of Google’s ongoing program is to speed up grid decarbonization. For this reason, they have included carbon-free energy in their methods, tailoring their procurement to cover any gaps in their grid CFE.

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