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  • Rushmi Rosairo

Triple Bottom Tuesday>>> Google; Operating 100% Carbon-Free Energy 24/7 by 2030

Picture Credit: 9to5Google website

As overall internet usage and its business grows day-by-day, the amount of energy being used by Google grows as well. That being said, Google has set out to achieve something that has never been done before, their goal is to operate on clean energy round the clock, by 2030.

In 2020, Google used 15.5 terawatt hours of electricity, and its data centers use the majority of that. Experts estimate that data storage and transmission in and from data centers use 1% of global electricity. The journey to Google’s current goal has been over a considerable amount of time.

In 2007, the company became carbon neutral. This means the company bought the same quantity of carbon offsets (this is done through restoration of land and planting trees) and renewable energy to make the company’s net operating carbon emissions zero.

Google became the first company of their size to match 100% of their annual global electricity consumption with renewable energy, in 2017. Now, the company is the largest purchaser of renewable energy, annually.

Now, Google aims to develop sustainable and energy-efficient data centers, operating on 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030. To achieve this, Google has been working on a few points, which are mainly; the PUE and a clean global grid.

According to latest reports, Google’s PUE was 1.10 in the second quarter of 2021. PUE is the ratio of how much energy is used by the computer data center, divided by the total average energy used by the computing equipment. 1.10, compared to the industry’s average of 1.59 suggests that its data centers are twice as efficient as the industry standard. The company’s PUE had dropped from a 1.23 in 2008.

Head of energy development for data centers at Google, Maud Texier says; “to manage PUE, the company is using a combination of hardware and software developments. We have invested in new raw materials for servers that emit less heat.”

Picture Credit: Google Cloud website

However, energy efficiency is only part of the equation, how the energy which runs the data centers also matters. There are 7.2 million data centers in the world according to the German Statistics office, and since data centers use up most of the energy provided, in order to be 100% carbon-free by 2030, data centers must use clean sources of energy in addition to being extremely efficient.

Although, finding a clean energy grid, in order to have clean source of energy, is a rather challenging task. “If we have a clean grid then being 100% carbon-free will be easy for the company. If the grid is not clean in a location where the company wants to build a data center, then there should be a path to make an impact and accelerate the regional grid’s transition,” says Texier.

In order to achieve clean energy grids, Google launched a compact with an international Organisation in partnership with the UN (Sustainable Energy for All). They would bring together an agglomeration of stakeholders with a common goal to transform global electricity grids to “absolute zero”.

Round-the-clock operation of carbon-free energy will be a significant development, and a win for the environment, or, as Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai has stated; “Humanity’s next big moonshot.”

April 19th 2022 | 9:00 PM

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