Google, Microsoft and Nucor team up on clean energy development

20 March 2024

North American steel manufacturer Nucor Corporation and US tech giants Google and Microsoft Corporation are to work together across the electricity ecosystem to develop new business models and aggregate their demand for advanced clean electricity technologies, including advanced nuclear.

These models, they say, will be designed to accelerate the development of first-of-a-kind and early commercial projects, including advanced nuclear, next-generation geothermal, clean hydrogen, long-duration energy storage and others.

As a first step, the companies will issue a Request for Information in several US regions for potential projects in need of offtake, and encourage technology providers, developers, investors, utilities and others to get involved.

By developing new commercial structures and aggregating demand from three of the world's largest energy buyers, this approach aims to reduce the risks for utilities and developers considering early commercial projects and enable the investments that are needed - ultimately helping to bring these projects online by the early 2030s and reducing technology costs through repeated deployment.

The companies will initially focus on proving out the demand aggregation and procurement model through advanced technology pilot projects in the USA. The companies will pilot a project delivery framework focused on three enabling levers for early commercial projects: signing offtake agreements for technologies that are still early on the cost curve; bringing a clear customer voice to policymakers and other stakeholders on broader long-term ecosystem improvements; and developing new enabling tariff structures in partnership with energy providers and utilities.

In addition to supporting innovative technologies that can help decarbonise electricity systems worldwide, the partners say this demand aggregation model will bring clear benefits to large energy buyers. Pooling demand enables buyers to offtake larger volumes of carbon-free electricity from a portfolio of plants, reducing project-specific development risk, and enables procurement efficiencies and shared learnings.

To ensure that the project delivery framework that they develop is transparent and scalable, Google, Microsoft and Nucor will share their lessons learned and the roadmap from their first pilot projects, and encourage other companies to consider how they can also support advanced clean electricity projects.

In May last year, Nucor signed a memorandum of understanding with NuScale Power to explore the deployment of NuScale's VOYGR small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) power plants at Nucor's scrap-based Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) steel mills. In addition, NuScale is studying the feasibility of siting a manufacturing facility for NuScale Power Modules near a Nucor facility. In April 2022, Nucor - with operating facilities in the USA, Canada and Mexico - committed to a USD15 million private investment in public equity in NuScale Power.

In 2022, Constellation Energy announced it was collaborating with Microsoft on the development of an energy matching technology using real-time, data-driven carbon accounting solution and hour-by-hour regional tracking to match customer needs with local carbon-free energy sources. Last year, Microsoft agreed a new hourly energy-matching agreement with Constellation that harnesses the environmental attributes of nuclear to put the data centre in Boydton, Virginia "very close" to the goal of 100% carbon-free operation.

Microsoft has also signed an agreement with fusion energy developer Helion Energy for the provision of electricity from its first fusion power plant.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News