Google: Google's plan to use 100% carbon-free energy in data centers by 2030

Apr 22, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Globally, Google's data centers are huge guzzlers of electricity, consuming around twice as much electricity as San Francisco. According to a Forbes article, in 2019, its facilities sucked up 12.4 terawatt-hours of power, which is comparable to the energy consumption of Sri Lanka. It is simultaneously one of many tech companies vowing to turn the tide. 

The tech giant has made a number of sustainability pledges over the years and, since 2007, has claimed it is carbon neutral. This claim, however, is misleading, considering that it is only substantiated through carbon offsets and renewable energy purchases. More recently, it announced that by 2030 it plans to use entirely carbon-free energy. This means that it will operate on carbon-free energy on a 24-7hr basis, derived from electricity bought by a nearby, regional grid.

This 2030 pledge has been called "lofty" by many, considering that so far, according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, across five data centers the closest margin they've reached is 90% carbon-free energy. That said, one of the ways in which Google says it will reach this target includes improving energy efficiency. Commenting on this, the head of energy development for data centres at Google, Maud Texier, said: "To manage PUE, the company is using a combination of hardware and software developments. We have invested in new raw materials for servers that emit less heat." It will also make use of DeepMind, a machine learning program that predicts the most efficient times to run heat pumps. 

Aside from this, and perhaps most importantly, to reach this goal, the giant also needs to clean the global grid. Texier explained: "If we have a clean grid then being 100% carbon-free will be easy for the company. If the grid is not clean in a location where the company wants to build a data centre, then there should be a path to make an impact and accelerate the regional grid's transition."

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