Apple seems to be embedding its renewable energy commitments into its corporate structure. The company recently created a new wholly-owned subsidiary known as Apple Energy LLC and filed an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates power companies, to be able to sell electricity and other power grid services to non-utility customers. The move is a strong sign that Apple will not only fulfill its plans to operate on 100 percent renewable energy through net-metering, but plans to generate and sell renewable energy back to the grid.
The tech giant is a supporter the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and was one of 13 U.S. companies to join a $140 billion pledge for climate action and low carbon investments. Earlier this year, Apple announced it would build on its existing clean energy projects with investments in renewable energy, energy storage and energy efficiency projects financed by the sale of $1.5 billion in green bonds. Furthermore, the Apple Campus 2 that is currently under construction in Cupertino, Calif. is expected to have photovoltaics installed with a total capacity of 14 megawatts and baseload biogas fuel cells rated at 4 megawatts.
The creation of the new entity may allow Apple to simplify and strengthen its ability to access the local power grid at more consistent and typically lower prices. It could also get paid market rates for its excess power. As John Weaver explained in an analysis for Electrek, it seems likely that Apple will assume a structure similar to that of an Independent Power Producer (IPP), allowing the company to produce and sell energy to a local group such as a business or many individuals. Its application specifically states that Apple is not looking to become a regular utility with responsibility over power lines and 24/7 power generation.
Apple is not expected to become a major provider of energy, rather, the creation of Apple Energy LLC and the filing to the FERC is more likely simply a sound business decision based on the fact that the company will sometimes generate more power than it is consuming and at other times be using more than it is generating. Perhaps more interesting would be the new entity’s ability to sell “capacity, and certain ancillary services,” which could include batteries and charging stations for electric vehicles or other technologies. Rumors have been circulating for some time that the company is working on electric vehicles and is investigating related technologies.