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Inside Google Cloud

Announcing ‘round-the-clock clean energy for cloud

September 14, 2020
Urs Hölzle

SVP, Cloud Infrastructure

Tackling climate change requires rapidly transitioning the entire global economy to clean energy and Google Cloud will be at the forefront of this transition. 

Google has a long track record on clean energy: in 2007, Google became the first major company to become carbon neutral. And in 2017, Google became the first company of our size to match 100% of its electricity consumption with renewable energy. Today, Google Cloud is the only major cloud provider to purchase enough renewable energy to cover our entire operations, and over the years, we’ve purchased more wind and solar power than any other corporation in history

But wind and solar power don’t work in all places at all times. Though we buy enough renewable energy on average to match our data centers’ electricity consumption, that average is an annual average. Thus, for a particular data center, at any given time we may have too much renewable power, or too little. When we have too much, we feed it into the local grid so someone else can consume it. When we have too little, we draw power from the local grid, and that power may not be renewable.

FIGURE 1 - While Google buys enough wind and solar power (symbolized by green spikes above) to be 100% renewable in a yearly, global average, these resources are variable, meaning that our data centers still sometimes rely on carbon-based resources.

Today, we set our most ambitious energy goal yet: to run our business on carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times, by 2030. This means we’re aiming to always have our data centers supplied with carbon-free energy. We are the first cloud provider to make this commitment, and we intend to be the first to achieve it, too.

FIGURE 2 - ‘Round-the-clock clean energy is the final and most ambitious step on Google’s energy journey.

As IDC EMEA’s Technology for Sustainability and Social Impact Practice Lead Marta Muñoz notes, “Committing to ensuring carbon-free workloads across all regions is a significant step, enabling organizations all over the world in their own journeys to becoming sustainable businesses. In regions currently considering stricter regulations and looking to incentivize a path toward carbon neutrality, like Europe, Google's approach should empower its customers to excel in the new green economy.” 

With the goal to reach 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030, we can demonstrate that a carbon-free economy is possible. Our data centers are large power consumers, and if we can achieve 24/7 carbon-free energy for our data center fleet, economically, we can demonstrate that carbon-free electricity grids are within reach.

We’ve already made a lot of progress, and in the coming years we’ll double down on our efforts. For instance, we recently announced a system that can shift flexible computing tasks to times when power on the grid is cleanest, while in Nevada we’ve proposed one of the world’s largest solar-plus-storage projects. We’re also using machine learning to optimize how wind farms deliver power

What’s more, as we learn by doing, we’ll help develop useful tools to empower others to follow suit. In the last decade, we've led the way in deploying renewable energy at scale—and, in the process, helped drive down costs for wind and solar. It’s time to do the same for next-generation technologies that will allow for a wholesale transition to 24/7 carbon-free energy. 

We’re developing tools to help our customers measure the impact of migrating to Google Cloud, report on their emissions, and reduce them. We’re also building the Industrial Adaptive Controls platform in collaboration with DeepMind, which provides AI control of cooling systems in commercial and industrial facilities. In the US alone, 12% of all electricity is used for heating and cooling of commercial buildings1. Now, the same AI technology that helps reduce the energy we use to cool our data centers by 30% will be available to the world’s largest industrial enterprises, building management software providers, and data center operators. 

If you're interested in running your company on the only cloud provider that has achieved 100% renewable energy, we’re here to help you along the way. Click here to learn more about our plans to move to 24/7 carbon-free energy. And be sure to read Google’s broader sustainability announcement, which includes our commitment to 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030, a EUR10 million Google Impact Challenge focused on mitigating climate change, and several other actions to help Google users make smarter decisions for the planet every day.

1. Alliance to Save Energy & U.S. Energy Information Administration

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