Google's Nest Renew Program Helps You Use More Clean Energy

Smart thermostats are about to get smarter and the grid is about to get cleaner.

Nest Thermostat
Gado via Getty Images / Getty Images

In regions of the country with a mix of renewable and fossil fuel sources of electricity, your carbon footprint changes depending on when you put demands on the grid. Run your dishwasher when the wind is blowing or take a shower when the sun is shining, and the energy used to run your heat pump water heater is more likely to come from clean, renewable sources.

On Wednesday, Google announced a new service called Nest Renew, where homeowners with Nest thermostats can lower their carbon footprint by shifting some of their energy use to times when grid electricity comes from carbon-free sources. And in areas of the country with time-of-use energy electricity rates, Nest Renew can save consumers money by using energy at less expensive times. Beyond climate control functions, the Nest Renew service provides monthly reports detailing when electricity coming into your home is cleanest, allowing customers to shift other, non-thermostat-related energy loads like clothes dryers or electric vehicle charging.

Nest Renew piggybacks on Google's 24/7 Carbon-Free Energy goal of using carbon-free electricity at every hour at all of its data centers and office campuses hubs around the world. Like Nest Renew customers, Google is shifting the energy demands of its operations to align with the times of day when energy sources are the cleanest. All the data that Google has collected for its own Carbon-Free Energy project can be re-purposed to support Nest Renew. 

On the Climate Changers podcast, Google's Director of Energy, Michael Terrell, said the question is “How can we use our products, whether it's Google Earth, or Google Search, or YouTube or Travel, to help people realize [emissions] reductions in their daily lives? How can we use the hardware that we produce through smart thermostats to use energy more efficiently?”

Customers with Nest and other smart thermostats can already adjust the timing of their HVAC systems to benefit the climate. Peak energy demand often comes in the early evening, when people return home from work and fire up air conditioners, televisions, and other appliances. Unfortunately, early evening is also when solar energy often goes offline, resulting in utilities relying on carbon-emitting natural gas plants to provide customers with electricity. But with a smart thermostat set to run while the sun is still shining, customers can return home to an already comfortable house that relies less on dirty electricity.

Nest Renew is still in the roll-out stage, with an early preview open by invitation in the coming weeks. Nest customers can sign up at to join the waitlist. The basic subscription to Nest Renew is free across the continental United States. 

A $10-per-month subscription to Nest Renew Premium includes a program called Clean Energy Match, which gives subscribers the ability to purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) from solar and wind plants to offset their carbon emissions during those times of day when their electricity come from fossil fuel sources. The sale of RECs allows solar and wind plants to reduce their operating costs, making the electricity they produce cheaper and driving more and more fossil fuel sources off the grid. Carbon offsets aren't as good as running on carbon-free electricity in the first place, but they move the grid $10-a-month closer to zero emissions.

To ensure that the energy transition is just and equitable, Renew Premium also contributes money to nonprofits serving low-income communities and communities of color with clean energy projects. 

Household energy use in the United States accounts for 40% of energy-related carbon emissions. The Rocky Mountain Institute independently reviewed Nest Renew and estimated that 1 million subscribers to Renew Premier could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 5 million metric tons per year—the equivalent of taking 1.5 million passenger vehicles off the road.

Google reached its own 100% renewable energy target in 2018. It pledges to be 24/7 carbon-free by 2030. But as Google's Michael Terrell puts it: “We need to be doing much more than addressing our own footprint. We need to be driving transformation across the economy.” Nest Renew gives homeowners with ability to help drive that transformation. 

View Article Sources
  1. Shwisberg, Lauren, et al. "Brining Clean Energy Home." Rocky Mountain Institute, 2021.