No, Google isn’t running its operations on 100 percent renewable energy. But the firm has reached a major milestone in renewable energy purchasing.
“Google’s total purchase of energy from sources like wind and solar [in 2017] exceeded the amount of electricity used by our operations around the world, including offices and data centers,” Google’s Urs Hölzle writes. “For every kilowatt hour of electricity we consumed, we purchased a kilowatt hour of renewable energy from a wind or solar farm that was built specifically for Google. This makes us the first public Cloud, and company of our size, to have achieved this feat.”
To be clear, Google has not powered its operations solely with 100 percent renewable energy: Such a feat, it says, is impossible. Instead, it is matching its energy consumption with purchased renewable energy which it returns to a power grid somewhere.
“That renewable energy may be produced in a different place, or at a different time, from where we’re running our data centers and offices,” Hölzle claims. “What’s important to us is that we are adding new clean energy sources to the electrical system, and that we’re buying that renewable energy in the same amount as what we’re consuming, globally and on an annual basis.”
Google began purchasing renewable energy in 2010. And in December 2016, the firm announced that it intended to achieve 100 percent renewable energy matching for its global operations in 2017.
This achievement is impressive, and it dwarfs similar efforts by companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, each of which also maintains massive datacenters around the globe. Microsoft, in particular, has improved its consumption of renewable energy over the past year, but it still trails Amazon and isn’t in the same league as Google.