Google is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world
In 2007, Google announced its intentions to become carbon neutral. A state which is characterised by a company’s ecological footprint or in this case, lack thereof or zero percent emissions.
Google’s plan was to focus on three things:
1.Reducing energy consumption
2.Use and investment in clean energy resources
3.Purchase of carbon offsets for emissions that can’t be reduced
The company went so far as to form a partnership with the Environmental Resources Trust (ERT) to independently verify its assessment on energy consumption and plan for the coveted zero carbon state.
The company in a blog post from 2007 titled “Carbon neutrality by end of 2007”, outlined these plans and announced an immediate investment in carbon offsets to help it become neutral in the short term.
Carbon offsets are an investment into technologies that help reduce greenhouse gas or carbon dioxide emissions. This is done to compensate for the emissions a company cannot directly reduce.
Google made it very clear that this was not a permanent solution – “To be clear, we see carbon offsets not as a permanent solution but rather as a temporary tool which allows us to take full responsibility for our impact right away. By investing in projects elsewhere in the world that cut the overall amount of greenhouse gases, we can help reduce climate impact now while we develop more sustainable strategies for the future”.
In 2010, Google entered into a substantial 20-year green Power Purchase Agreement with NextEra Energy Resources to purchase 114 megawatts of wind generated power for use in it’s data centers.
This also solved a major hurdle in the renewable resources battle, that of investment. The reason why most clean energy projects fail is because there is no funding or it dries out. By buying such a large amount of energy for an extended period of time at predetermined price ensures the survival of the project and incentivises other projects of a similar nature.
In 2016, Google announced that they were “The world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. That’s bigger than many large utilities and more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts it took to send Marty McFly back to the future”.
The way Google did this was by “buying enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit of electricity our operations consume, globally. And we’re focusing on creating new energy from renewable sources, so we only buy from projects that are funded by our purchases”.
Today, Google announced that it has met its goal of becoming carbon neutral. They actually did a little bit better, “Google’s total purchase of energy from sources like wind and solar exceeded the amount of electricity used by our operations around the world, including offices and data centers,” said Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President, Technical Infrastructure in a blog post.
“Over the course of 2017, across the globe, for every kilowatt hour of electricity we consumed, we purchased a kilowatt hour of renewable energy from a wind or solar farm that was built specifically for Google,” said the post.
“This makes us the first public Cloud, and company of our size, to have achieved this feat. Today, we have contracts to purchase three gigawatts (3GW) of output from renewable energy projects; no corporate purchaser buys more renewable energy than we do. To date, our renewable energy contracts have led to over $3 billion in new capital investment around the world”.
The company has also outlined its plans for the future saying that it will “keep signing contracts to buy more renewable energy. And in those regions where we can’t yet buy renewables, we’ll keep working on ways to help open the market. We also think every energy buyer—individuals and businesses alike—should be able to choose clean energy. We’re working with groups like the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance and Re-Source Platform to facilitate greater access to renewably-sourced energy”.