Emerging firm and peaking clean energy technologies — such as next-generation geothermal, carbon capture and storage, advanced nuclear, hydrogen and long-duration storage — can sharply reduce the cost of having carbon free energy, Google said in a paper released Thursday.
In a 90% emissions-free scenario, Google’s modeling found that adding advanced clean firm and peaking resources can cut the cost of a portfolio of wind, solar and four-hour lithium-ion batteries by 40%, according to the paper, “The Corporate Role in Accelerating Advanced Clean Electricity Technologies.”
Although the advanced technologies are more expensive, they reduce the over-procurement of wind, solar and storage, which would otherwise be needed to cover periods of low output from the variable resources, Google said.
“Firm technologies can produce electricity during the most expensive hours when wind and solar are unavailable,” Google said. “Taking these factors into account, our modeling finds that a cost-optimal portfolio includes a diverse mix of [variable renewable energy], clean firm generation, and flexible balancing resources, including energy storage of varying durations.”
Also, Google said its modeling showed that advanced clean electricity technologies can reduce market risks in clean energy portfolios, including mismatches between hourly generation and electricity use.
“A diverse portfolio can also hedge against uncertainty in future technology cost and deployment trajectories and the possibility of over-reliance on any single technology that ultimately fails to deliver hoped-for improvement,” Google said.
In its modeling, Google said it focused on next-generation geothermal, carbon capture and storage, advanced nuclear, hydrogen and long-duration storage, partly because of their expected pricing and potential for cost cuts, scalability and environmental factors.
“We are most interested in technologies that have potential for significant cost declines through repeated deployment so that our efforts can spur further technological progress,” Google said.
However, advanced clean energy technologies face major financial, regulatory and power market barriers, according to Google.
“We need much greater capital investment in the next generation of advanced clean electricity technologies today to move them down their own cost curves and toward cost competitiveness and widespread market adoption,” Google said.
Voluntary clean energy buyers can help spur emerging technologies, according to the company.
Google urged companies to consider signing power purchase agreements to help enable financing and construction of initial commercial plants while possibly making direct investments in projects. Google, for example, has a contract to buy power from Fervo Energy, an advanced geothermal startup company.
Companies should also work with utilities and regulators to develop new approaches to green tariffs, according to Google. “These ‘Clean Transition Tariffs’ can buy down the cost of the utility transition for all ratepayers while appropriately crediting the participating customer for the value these new resources bring to the grid,” the company said.
With 6.2 GW of renewable energy under contract, Google is one of the largest voluntary clean energy buyers in the United States. Google is 64% of the way toward its goal of running exclusively on clean energy 24/7 by 2030 on the grids where it operates, according to its 2023 environmental report, released in July.