Google Alphabet Inc. plans to operate its data centers and offices by 2030 using exclusively carbon-free electricity, its chief executive told Reuters, building on its previous target of balancing its energy consumption with 100% renewable energy.
As CEO Sundar Pichai put it, the “stretch target” would push Google to go beyond the tech industry norm of offsetting carbon emissions from electricity usage and involve technical and political breakthroughs.
With wildfires burning a record area this month in the west of the United States has raised public awareness of climate change, Pichai said, Google wants to bring more exposure to its latest target and product features as well.
“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.”
Last year, wind, solar, and other renewable sources accounted for 61 percent of the global hourly consumption of electricity by Google.
The proportion varied by plant, with carbon-free sources at Google’s wind-swept Oklahoma data center meeting 96 percent of hourly power needs, compared to 3 percent in its gas-reliant Singapore service.
But Google, which consumes marginally more electricity worldwide each year than residents and businesses in Delaware, has become hopeful that it can close the gap with batteries for overnight storage of solar power, new sources such as geothermal reservoirs, and better power need management.
While he refused to disclose the probable cost of achieving that goal. Pichai said, “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 last year how to get there,” “And we feel confident we can get there by 2030.”
Big Google rivals like Microsoft Corp MSFT.O and Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O have targeted extracting more carbon from the environment than they generate over the coming decades, but none of them have explicitly set a goal to curb carbon-based energy procurement. He refused to disclose the probable cost of achieving that goal.
But the firms share a common aim of catalyzing companies and governments to curb climate emissions by 2030 when scientists warn global warming will become disastrous if it is unchecked.
Jennifer Layke, global director of the World Resources Institute research group, which obtained funding from Google, said the organization has motivated others in the United States and Europe over the past decade, but its activities now need to encourage action in key 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.
Since 2007, Google has become carbon neutral, meaning it has planted trees, purchased carbon credits, and funded vast quantities of wind power in areas where it is plentiful to offset its coal and natural gas power use in other regions.
It also said Monday its estimated 1 million metric tons of emissions have now been offset since 2006 and its launch in 1998.
The company’s latest priorities include putting 5 gigawatts of renewable energy close to some customers, financing tree planting outside its mitigation needs, and exchanging data or forming alliances with 500 governments around the world to try to reduce 1 gigaton of carbon emissions annually by 2030.
Google said it would continue to reduce unrelated carbon emissions from energy use, such as travel by employees.
Its carbon-free electricity goal meets one demand from 2,000 Google employees who petitioned the company last November to stop selling data storage and other cloud computing resources to oil firms and support think tanks or politicians questioning the existence of climate change.
“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but the urgency of the situation demands more,” employees said in a statement.
Several workers who signed the petition on Monday said Google risks weakening its new plans if it continues to protect customers and politicians aggravating global warming.