Alphabet Inc’s Google aims to power its data centers and offices using solely carbon-free electricity by 2030, building on its previous goal of matching its energy use with 100 percent renewable energy, CEO Sundar Pichai said.
The “stretch goal” would force Google to move beyond the tech industry norm of offsetting carbon emissions from electricity use, and push it to surpass technological and political obstacles, Pichai said.
“The problem is so immense, many of us need to lead the way and show solutions,” Pichai said. “We’re one small player in this, but we can set an example.”
Wind, solar and other renewable sources last year accounted for 61 percent of Google’s global hourly electricity usage.
The proportion varied by facility, with carbon-free sources fulfilling 96 percent of hourly power needs at Google’s wind-swept Oklahoma data center, compared with 3 percent at its gas-reliant Singapore operation.
However, Google, which consumes slightly more power annually worldwide than residents and businesses in Delaware, has grown optimistic that it can bridge the gap with batteries to store solar power overnight, emerging sources such as geothermal reservoirs and better management of power needs.
Pichai declined to share the likely cost of achieving this goal.
Big Google rivals, including Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc, have 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.
Jennifer Layke, global director at research group World Resources Institute, which has received Google funding, said that the company has inspired others in the US and Europe over the last decade, but that its efforts must spur action in crucial polluting regions such as China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
“If we can’t shift from carbon, we will suffer the firestorms and the droughts,” she 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.
On Monday, it also said that its estimated 1 million tonnes of emissions between 2006 and its 1998 launch have been offset.
The firm’s goals include bringing 5 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 1 gigatonne of carbon emissions annually by 2030.
Google said that 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 in November last year petitioned the firm to stop selling data storage and other cloud computing tools to oil companies and funding think tanks who deny the existence of climate change.
On Monday, several employees who signed the petition said that Google risks undermining its new goals if it keeps supporting customers and politicians exacerbating global warming.
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