Google Energy gets the feds' green light

Federal regulators have granted Google the ability to buy and sell electricity -- just as any other utility company might do.

The decision immediately paves the way for the creation of Google Energy, the company's attempt to reduce its overhead costs by buying and selling clean electricity on the energy market.

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But the authorization could, conceivably, allow the tech giant to sell energy directly to customers -- a market move that Google executives have hinted they are exploring.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued the much-expected authorization on Thursday, granting the search engine's energy subsidiary the rights "for the sale of energy, capacity, and ancillary services at market-based rates," according to the order.

However, FERC officials later stipulated that Google Energy could not "own or control any generation or transmission" facilities.

Ultimately, the decision could help Google on its quest to become a carbon-neutral company, one of the goals it outlined when it first pitched Google Energy. It should also assist the company's ongoing research efforts in areas like energy information technology.

"Right now, we can't buy affordable, utility-scale, renewable energy in our markets," Google spokesman Niki Fenwick told CNET in January. "We want to buy the highest quality, most affordable renewable energy wherever we can and use the green credits."

But when asked about additional ventures, Fenwick stressed Google did not have "any concrete plans," and later hinted the company could actually enter the consumer energy market. However, it is not clear whether the tech giant is still weighing such a move.

"We want the ability to buy and sell electricity in case it becomes part of our portfolio," Fenwick said last month.