Google’s Next Moonshot? Running on Carbon-Free Energy by 2030

Pablo Tucker
September 17, 2020

In 2007, Google became the first major company to become carbon neutral.

"To plan 24/7 hourly being carbon-free in our data centers and campuses around the world, we see an enormous logistics challenge, which is why we've been hard at work modeling the previous year how to get there", Pichai said. "We're committed to sharing technology, methods, and funding to help organisations everywhere transition to resilient, carbon-free systems".

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.

Google set itself an unprecedented target on Monday - to operate 24/7 on carbon-free energy by 2030. Ten years later, the company added another feather to its cap by becoming the first major company to match its energy use with 100% renewable energy. Those eight years of carbon debt are thought to be less than one year of Google's current emissions, due to its phenomenal growth. Instead, as is typical for companies seeking greener operations but with large and distributed physical footprints, Google purchases renewable energy elsewhere to offset the use of non-renewable power in places where there are no directly accessible sources available.

"Our data centres power the products and services you've come to rely on every day".

Alphabet Inc's GOOGL.O Google aims to power its data centers and offices using exclusively carbon-free electricity by 2030, its chief executive told Reuters, building on its previous goal of matching its energy use with 100% renewable energy. This means that Google's lifetime net carbon footprint is now zero.

Mr Pichai said the company is working on ways to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise its electricity demand and forecasting.

These measures will create 12,000 jobs by 2025, he said.

However, BBC environment analyst Roger Harranbin says Google's claims to have offset historic carbon emissions need further "scrutiny".

Because it's figuring out how to meet those challenges, Google says its commitment to end its reliance on fossil fuels could pave the way for other companies to do the same. "And we feel confident we can get there by 2030". Microsoft announced in July that it plans to become "carbon negative" by 2030, while Apple has revealed plans to become carbon neutral across its business operations and supply chain by 2030. Furthermore, Google is helping 3,000 cities worldwide track and reduce their carbon emissions, 500 of which should be able to shave off 1 gigaton of emissions annually by 2030.

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