The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) recently authorized Apple to sell electricity in wholesale markets by approving the company’s request for “market-based rate authority.” FERC’s approval means that Apple will be able to sell excess power generated at its renewable facilities, including large solar installations in Arizona, Nevada, and California. Apple also recently entered into a long-term power purchase agreement with First Solar, Inc., to purchase the output from a 130 MW solar facility near San Francisco for approximately $850 million over 25 years. FERC’s order authorizes Apple to sell its excess electricity in several wholesale markets across the country, but not directly to retail customers. FERC reviewed Apple’s request and found that the technology giant’s entry into wholesale energy markets would not result undue market power, affect pricing, or suppress competition.
Apple’s plan to become a seller – instead of simply a user and owner – of renewable energy is consistent with the company’s stated goal of installing 4 gigawatts of renewable energy around the world by 2020. The company’s website also claims that 93% Apple’s data centers and manufacturing operations are currently powered by renewable energy resources.
Apple’s entry into the wholesale energy market is part of a trend among large tech companies to operate as sellers and developers – and not merely end users – of renewable energy. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have invested billions of dollars in recent years to develop renewable energy facilities in the U.S. and abroad. Google, for example, is currently purchasing the output from over 2 gigawatts of renewable energy and received market-based rate authority from FERC in 2010. As large U.S. corporations acquire energy facilities and increase their long-term renewable purchases, it seems likely that many companies, like Apple and Google, will seek to sell excess generation in wholesale markets.