Google’s Push for 100% Renewable Energy

Google’s Push for 100% Renewable Energy

By Heidi Reidel

In the corporate race to meet a 100% renewable energy goal, Google has become the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy. They claim that they will reach their goal by 2017. With electricity being the largest source of greenhouse gases, this corporate push for renewable energy could mean revitalization for producers of renewable energy.

Google’s Move Toward Renewable Energy

What Google means by their 100% renewable energy goal is not that their data centers will be solely powered by renewable energy. Data centers must be in a location to best serve their users, and those locations aren’t always compatible with optimal locations for renewable power sources. Data centers must also operate 24/7, which isn’t always an option for renewable producers, so data centers can’t all be directly powered by wind farms and solar panels. Google and other corporations get their energy from an energy grid which is powered by various sources (natural gas, coal, wind, etc.).

Google’s solution to this is to add renewable energy to those energy grids. Google makes deals with renewable energy producers promising to buy wind and solar energy. The producers then have the money to finance more production and the renewable energy is plugged into the power grid so no net consumption of fossil fuels is used.

The Race For 100% Renewable Energy

As many other companies have been climbing toward the goal of 100% renewable energy for years, Google is less sparking the competition than fanning the flames. Facebook is entering into similar deals with renewable energy producers and Amazon also has a 100% sustainability goal. Microsoft has claimed carbon neutrality since 2014, but much of that is due to carbon offsets such as planting trees and renewable energy projects. The company does, however, plan to increase their reliance on renewable sources. Apple claims to be close to their own 100% goal but has yet to specify when that goal will be reached. Walmart, Target, and Apple are three out of four of the biggest solar customers in the country. The list of corporations investing in renewables is extensive, but in recent years Google has shot ahead of the competition, particularly with wind power.

When Competition Becomes Collective Interest

Though the title of the first company in the U.S. to meet the 100% renewable energy goal is enticing, it turns out investing in these renewable energy producers benefits the entire business community. The more money invested in wind and solar power, the more turbines and panels producers are able to build, the more energy they are able to create, and the lower the cost for everyone. Every time production is doubled, the cost of solar power is reduced by 20% and wind is reduced by about 10-12%. The collective investment in these producers will make renewable sources cheaper in the long run.

Buyers’ Principles

Fifty-one companies have also banded together to create the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, which were created to “spur progress on resolving the challenges they face when buying renewable energy, and to add their perspective to the future of the U.S. energy and electricity system.” WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and WRI (World Resources Institute) convened these companies after recognizing a “need for clearer guidelines.” With investments and purchasing goals becoming more ambitious, large companies are wary of future price increases and wish to contract directly for renewable energy. The Buyers’ Principles outline criteria that would help companies meet those goals.

There is rising concern that efforts for renewable energy will be futile. Due to the recent election, the government may soon cease support for renewable energy. Google, however, intends to continue plans for renewable energy initiatives, regardless of the new administration. With the amount of time and money invested in the push for 100% renewable energy, competing corporations will likely follow suit.

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