Google Commits $2 Billion To Global Renewable Energy Package

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Just prior to the global climate strike on September 20, Google announced it will invest $2 billion in the US, Chile, and Europe to increase the amount of electricity it derives from renewable sources. In a press release, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, “Sustainability has been one of Google’s core values from our earliest days. Over the years we’ve worked hard to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations, build products with people and planet in mind, and drive change at scale through our supply chains.”

Google renewable energy
Credit: Google

In what will be the largest renewable energy purchase in corporate history, Google has committed to 18 new energy agreements it says will add 1,600 megawatts of wind and solar power to its energy portfolio. When fully implemented, they will increase its renewable energy portfolio by more than 40%, for a total of 5,500 megawatts.

Pichai adds, “To ensure maximum impact, all of our latest deals meet the rigorous ‘additionality’ criteria we set out long ago for our energy purchases. This means we’re not buying power from existing wind and solar farms but instead are making long term purchase commitments that result in the development of new projects. Bringing incremental renewable energy to the grids where we consume energy is a critical component of pursuing 24×7 carbon-free energy for all of our operations.”

More Support For Renewable Energy

Google is not only concerned about obtaining electricity from renewable sources for its own operations, it is committed to helping others do so as well, and it is putting its money where its mouth is.

“Beyond our own operations, we’re working to make clean energy mainstream and break down the barriers for those who want to purchase renewable energy. Today we’re announcing two new grants from to provide further support for organizations that expand access to clean energy for all businesses—from flower shops to big-box retailers to startups.

“We’ll provide a $500,000 grant to Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance in the U.S. and a 500,000 euro grant to RE-Source in Europe. These grants will help fund the development of new purchasing models, provide training and resources for consumers, and enable more widespread access to clean power.”

Google Employees Demand More

More than 1,800 Google employees signed a letter last week calling on the company to do more. In particular, the signatories object to Google working with fossil fuel companies to help them extract more of the liquid death that is their stock in trade.

“Tech is not ‘green,'” the letter states.

“The carbon footprint of the tech industry’s data centers alone is on par with aviation. While Google makes a commitment to sustainability, stating that its global business operations are carbon neutral (its emissions are offset with equivalent renewable energy investments or carbon offset purchases) and aspiring to long-term 24×7 carbon-free energy consumption (but with no set commitment date), this doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Google Cloud makes significant revenue licensing infrastructure, machine learning, and engineering talent to fossil fuel companies, promising to help them extract fuel reserves faster. We know that a liveable future requires keeping these reserves in the ground. And that by making extraction “more efficient” Google trades our collective future for profit.

“Also, Google invests in the deadly status quo. In 2018 the company funded 111 members of Congress who voted against climate legislation at least 90% of the time.”

The Conundrum

The Google employees are quite right to be disgusted by the company’s support of the fossil fuel industry and its funding of climate deniers in Congress. On the other hand, income from the industry helps pay their salaries and a favorable regulatory environment is necessary to promote the long term growth of the company.

“Keep it in the ground” is a wonderful slogan and absolutely essential if the world is to avert the pending climate crisis. But it means disrupting the very basis of the global economy, which will have an enormous impact on how people earn a living in the future. The path forward is fraught with serious challenges that will require an extraordinary amount of human cooperation to solve. That may prove to be the most difficult challenge of all.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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