Google made a pledge in 2015 that they will be able to offset all of the energy they use at its data centres and offices with new power that has been generated using renewable energy sources by 2017 which they have just announced they are still on target to meet this.
Good, But How Significant?
It is no surprise that a global company like Google with around 62,000 staff, billions of users, and around 65% of the search engine market (not to mention Gmail, Google+, Google analytics etc) needs 13 data centres. To meet Google’s requirements it is reported that these data centres consume around 5.7 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity per year.
To give some idea of how much energy this is, the terawatt hour unit is something that would normally be used to express the annual electricity generation for small countries rather than businesses.
This latest announcement shows us that google is very familiar with the concept of offsetting and although they are still using fossil fuels, Google is nearly at the point where they are bringing in enough energy that has been produced by wind or solar renewable energy to offset its full consumption figure.
Google’s own technical infrastructure people have said that the big reductions in the cost of wind and solar over the last 6 years (down 60% for wind and 80% for solar) have meant that there are cost savings to be gained for Google.
Some technology commentators have also suggested that some of the big motivators for Google have also been the many tax incentives from the U.S. government and others for investing in ‘clean’ energy.
Google sources have acknowledged the importance of tax incentives but have also stated that even though these are likely to decline over the next few years, the costs of renewable energy technology is likely to come down too.
Environmental Groups Pleased.
Google’s most recent announcement has pleased the likes of environmentalists such as Friends of Earth (FoE) who have publicly supported Google’s commitment to renewable energy use. This welcomes their part as a broad movement by companies, cities and even entire countries!
What About Trump?
Some experts have expressed their fears the US-Presidential elect Donald Trump’s dismissal of climate change could be the end of motivation and tax breaks for businesses in the U.S. to commit to renewables.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
It is, of course, good news to hear that large, high profile businesses with big energy requirements such as Google, for whatever reason, are committing to renewable, cleaner energy sources.
In the UK, many businesses are now likely to be getting a slightly larger proportion of their energy from renewable sources anyway over the coming years. For example, almost half (46%) of the UK’s electricity came from clean energy sources such as wind and nuclear power last year, and renewables now account for a quarter of the country’s power supplies. Last year was the first time that renewables in the UK have outstripped coal power.
Some energy commentators have noted that the UK has fallen from top to 13th place in consultancy Ernst & Young’s annual league table for attractiveness to clean energy global rankings. This indicates that investors in renewable energy projects are probably being put off the UK by what many see as the government’s hostility to renewables and green efforts, and their slashing of support for clean power supplies in favour of more expensive alternatives e.g. shale gas and nuclear power.