In a blog, Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of technical infrastructure at Google, announced that the company has met its goal of purchasing enough renewable energy to cover its electricity needs.
Over a year ago, Google announced that it was on track to purchase enough renewable energy to match all the electricity it consumed over the next year. After completing the accounting for Google’s 2017 energy use, the company determined it met its goal. Google’s total purchase of energy from sources like wind and solar exceeded the amount of electricity used by its operations around the world, including offices and data centers.
Over the course of 2017, for every kilowatt hour of electricity Google consumed globally, it purchased a kilowatt hour of renewable energy from a wind or solar farm that was built specifically for Google. Hölzle said this makes Google the first public cloud and company of its size to achieve this.
Google has contracts to purchase 3 GW of output from renewable energy projects. To date, the company’s renewable energy contracts have led to over $3 billion in new capital investment around the world.
In 2016, Google’s operational projects produced enough renewable energy to cover 57% of the energy it used from global utilities. That same year it signed a record number of new contracts for wind and solar developments that were still under construction. Those projects began operating in 2017—and that additional output of renewable energy was enough to cover more than 100% of what it used during the whole year.
“We say that we ‘matched’ our energy usage because it’s not yet possible to ‘power’ a company of our scale by 100% renewable energy,” Hölzle said. “It’s true that for every kilowatt hour of energy we consume, we add a matching kilowatt hour of renewable energy to a power grid somewhere. But that renewable energy may be produced in a different place, or at a different time, from where we’re running our data centers and offices. What’s important to us is that we are adding new clean energy sources to the electrical system, and that we’re buying that renewable energy in the same amount as what we’re consuming, globally and on an annual basis.”
Google is building new data centers and offices, so as demand for Google products grows so does its electricity load.
“We need to be constantly adding renewables to our portfolio to keep up. So we’ll keep signing contracts to buy more renewable energy,” Hölzle said. “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.”
Google is working with groups like the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance and Re-Source Platform to facilitate greater access to renewable energy.
“This program has always been a first step for us, but it is an important milestone in our race to a carbon-free future,” Hölzle said. “We do want to get to a point where renewables and other carbon-free energy sources actually power our operations every hour of every day. It will take a combination of technology, policy and new deal structures to get there, but we’re excited for the challenge. We can’t wait to get back to work.”
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