By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Google Inc won approval from U.S. energy regulators to act as a power marketer, which will make it easier for the Internet search giant to obtain renewable energy to run its huge data centers.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday approved Google's request to purchase electricity and resell it to wholesale customers.
A company spokeswoman previously said that the Google Energy LLC subsidiary wanted the authority from FERC "to contain and manage the cost of energy for Google."
In its approval order, FERC pointed out that Google does not own or control any facilities that generate electricity to sell in the wholesale markets.
Google says the extent of its electric generation ownership is to provide power solely to the company's facilities and for emergency backup power.
Other companies that consume a lot of electricity have been given similar power marketing authority by FERC to help control their energy costs.
The agency lists on its website about 1,500 companies that have subsidiaries with the same market-based rate authority, including Alcoa, the Safeway grocery store chain and Walmart.
Information technology and telecommunications facilities, such as those that Google own, 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.
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)