Google sets unprecedented goal to power data centers with 100% renewable energy by 2030

Google announced on Monday 14 September it will aim to power all of its data centers and offices with 100% renewable energy by 2030.

The new goal has positioned the tech giant as the biggest company in the world to commit to ditching coal and natural gas power, according to Reuters

“The problem is so immense, many of us need to lead the way and show solutions. We’re one small player in this but we can set an example,” said Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

Google will be forced to move beyond the tech industry norms of offsetting carbon emissions from electricity use, requiring technological and political breakthroughs to achieve this stretch goal. But Mr. Pichai is confident they will reach it by 2030, but declined to share the cost of achieving the goal.

“To plan 24/7 hourly being carbon-free in our data centers and campuses around the world, we see an enormous logistics challenge, which is why we’ve been hard at work modeling the last year how to get there,” Mr. Pichai said.

Wildfires burning a record area in the western United States this month have increased public awareness of climate change, Pichai said, and Google wants to bring further attention through its new goal as well as product features.

Wind, solar and other renewable sources accounted for 61% of Google’s global hourly electricity usage last year, but in Singapore, only 3% was fulfilled by carbon-free sources.

But Google has grown optimistic that it can bridge the renewable energy gap with batteries to store solar power overnight, emerging sources such as geothermal reservoirs and better management of power needs.

Rivals, Microsoft and Amazon, have also targeted removing more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit over the coming decades, but none of them have publicly set a goal to stop sourcing carbon-based energy.

But the companies share a common goal of encouraging businesses and governments to curb climate pollution before 2030, when scientists say global warming could become catastrophic if unchecked.

Jennifer Layke, global director at research group World Resources Institute, which has received Google funding, said the company inspired others in the United States and Europe over the last decade. However, Google efforts must now spur action in crucial polluting regions such as China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia, where Google has just opened a new cloud region.

“If we can’t shift from carbon, we will suffer the firestorms and the droughts,” Ms. Layke said.

Google has been carbon-neutral since 2007, meaning it has planted trees, bought carbon credits and funded large amounts of wind power in places where it is abundant to offset its tapping of coal and natural gas power in other regions. It also said that its estimated one million metric tons of emissions between 2006 and its 1998 launch now have been offset.

Google has introduced new goals, including a plan to bring five gigawatts of renewable energy near some suppliers, funding tree planting beyond its offset needs and sharing data or forging partnerships with 500 governments around the world to try to cut one gigaton of carbon emissions annually by 2030.

Google said it would continue to offset carbon emissions unrelated to electricity use, such as from employee travel.

Its carbon-free electricity goal satisfies one demand of 2,000 Google employees who last November petitioned the company to stop selling data storage and other cloud computing tools to oil companies.

Pichai said the company would continue to ‘support everyone’ with its cloud services and help oil and gas companies transition to tapping other sources.

Google also recently announced new plans to build their third data center in Taiwan, but plans to use renewable energy sources have not been confirmed.

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