Google just made one of Big Tech’s most ambitious environmental commitments: it will work to run its operations entirely on renewable energy by 2030. Plus, Google has announced that, to date, it has bought enough carbon offsets to offset essentially all of the carbon that is heating the earth from the dioxide emissions the company has released since it was founded in 1998.
Google has been carbon neutral every year since 2007, which means it offsets emissions from fossil fuel burning by investing in renewable energy projects or other initiatives that pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into storage. Relying on offsets, however, does not wean the company off of fossil fuels. Google released 4.9 million tons of greenhouse gases in 201
Google’s new promise comes from the fact that California, home of Google’s headquarters, continues to burn and is choked on smoke from flames made more devastating by climate change. “We have until 2030 to identify a sustainable cause for our planet or to face the worst effects of climate change,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, in a video released today. “We are already feeling the effects of historic forest fires in the United States to devastating floods in many parts of the world.”
Once Google’s data centers are fully renewable, it means, “Every email you send through Gmail, every question you ask Google Search, every YouTube video you watch, and every one Route you take with Google Maps is powered by clean energy every hour of each day, ”Pichai wrote in a blog post today. Google’s new commitment applies to the company’s power consumption. The company will continue to offset the emissions for things like employee travel. Reuters Reports.
Last September, Google announced it was “the largest renewable energy company purchase in history,” increasing the company’s wind and solar deals by 40 percent. The company said it was the world’s largest consumer of renewable energy in 2016.
Before Google can fully rely on renewable energy, there are some technological hurdles that must be overcome. More and better batteries are needed to store and deliver energy when the sun is not shining and the wind is standing still. It will also find out how AI can be used to forecast the company’s electricity needs and make it more energy efficient. In the US, the country’s aging power grid needs to be updated to better accommodate renewable energies. Companies like Google often limit themselves to relying on the available power mix everywhere, which usually includes fossil fuels. Hence, Google may need to think about working in places with healthy renewable energy markets and cheap energy policies.
Google believes that making a commitment to end fossil fuel dependency could pave the way for other companies to do the same. She expects her environmental efforts to create 12,000 jobs by 2025.
Google’s new commitment meets one of the demands made by more than 2,000 employees last year, who demanded no CO2 emissions by 2030 and who joined a global climate strike with other technicians in September. Amazon and Microsoft employees have made similar demands, urging their employers to stop greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. So far, however, Google is the only tech giant that has committed to it. Neither company has met additional employee demands to end fossil fuel company contracts and stop funding politicians and lobbyists who oppose climate science.
Microsoft announced in January that it would work to eliminate all carbon pollution ever released from the atmosphere by 2050. This is a tougher endeavor than the milestone that Google reached today of offsetting all historical carbon emissions. But Google can now brag that its net carbon footprint is zero for its lifetime.