Alphabet Inc’s Google has set an unprecedented goal to power its data centres and offices through only renewable energy by 2030, according to the company’s chief executive, and thus becoming the world’s biggest company to completely ditch coal and natural gas power.
The goal, which CEO Sundar Pichai described as a “stretch goal”, will force Google into moving beyond the tech industry norm of releasing carbon emissions from electricity use and will also require technological and political breakthroughs in order to be achieved.
Pichai stated that “The problem is so immense, many of us need to lead the way and show solutions,” adding “We’re one small player in this but we can set an example.”
Public awareness on climate change has skyrocketed this month with wildfires burning a record area in the western part of the United States, Pichai said, and he hopes that with this goal, Google will be bringing even more attention to climate change, even with its products and their features.
During the previous year, wind, solar and other renewable sources of energy made up 61% of Google’s global hourly electricity usage, with the proportion of renewable energy use varying by facility.
Carbon-free sources managed to fulfil 96% of the hourly power needs at Google’s wind-powered Oklahoma data centre, whilst only 3% of its Singapore operation centre was fuelled by renewable energy, with the latter being dependent on gas power.
However, Google has grown optimistic that it is able to bridge the current gap present between such centres with batteries that are able to store solar power during the night, emerging sources of energy such as geothermal reservoirs, and also through better management of power needs.
Pichai said that “To plan 24/7 hourly being carbon-free in our data centres and campuses around the world, we see an enormous logistics challenge, which is why we’ve been hard at work modelling the last year how to get there,” adding that the company feels “confident” of reaching the goal by 2030.
Along with Google, rivals Microsoft Corporation and Amazon.com have both targeted the removal of more carbon from the atmosphere, yet none of them have publicly set a goal to stop sourcing carbon-based energy in the way that Google has done through this announcement.
However, the companies share a common goal of pushing businesses and governments to limit climate pollution and get rid of it altogether by 2030, with this being the date that scientists have claimed that global warming could become catastrophic if it is left unchecked.
Google has been carbon-neutral since 2007, by planting trees, buying carbon credits and also funding large amounts of wind power in areas where it is so abundant to offset its tapping of coal and natural gas power in other regions.
Google also said that its estimated 1 million metric tons of emissions between its 1998 launch and 2006 have officially been offset.
Some of the company’s goals include bringing 5 gigawatts of renewable energy near some supplies, funding tree planting beyond its offset needs, and also sharing data or creating partnerships with 500 governments around the world in order to cut 1 gigaton of carbon emissions annually till 2030.
Apart from this, Google will continue to offset carbon emissions that are unrelated to electricity use, such as that generated from employee travel.
This goal satisfies one of the demands of the 2,000 Google employees who petitioned the company to stop selling data storage and other cloud computing tools to oil companies last November.
Speaking on the matter, Pichai stated that Google will continue to “support everyone” with its clouds services, and to also help oil and gas companies to tap into other sources of energy.