Going Green: Google's Quest

Going Green: Google's Quest

According to scientists, Google consumes more than 0.5% of all energy worldwide. This may very well be true, considering we handle more than a large amount of all internet traffic. Even more, we know that IT use will increase rapidly in the coming years. What does that mean for the environment? How do we change our business into a sustainable business?

We Choose Green
There is a lot to say about sustainability. This article focuses on “going green” because Google is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy on the planet. Since 2010, we have signed 26 agreements to purchase nearly 3GW of innovative renewable energy. (This is like taking more than 1.3 million cars off the road per year). In 2017, we reached 100% renewable energy for our operations. We have made it a top priority to become not only more energy efficient but also to ensure that the energy we purchase comes from clean sources like renewables. Our support for clean energy goes hand in hand with reducing our carbon footprint. We have been carbon neutral by improving the efficiency of our operations and buying both renewable power and high-quality carbon offsets since 2007.

Much of our infrastructure is custom-designed: our high voltage substations; on-site electrical distribution systems, and proprietary cooling systems. All of these work together and are optimized to provide the highest performance and lowest total cost of ownership computing infrastructure, saving us more than $1 billion in operations through energy efficiency alone.

Reducing Use
We strive to build the world’s most energy-efficient computing network by squeezing more out of every watt of power we consume to reduce energy use. Our own DeepMind artificial intelligence research team turned to the task of tuning its data center’s cooling system to the weather and other factors. The team reduced our cooling energy bill by 40% and produced the lowest average annual power usage effectiveness (PUE) that the site had ever seen. On average, a Google data center uses 50% less energy than a typical data center. 

Partnerships as a Key Element for Success
Partnerships are one of the most important elements of success. All over the world, we have formed partnerships to jointly negotiate power purchase agreements (PPAs). Advantages of the consortium model include economies of scale; saving and sharing costs; portfolio diversification and risk management, and an easily replicable structure. For instance, we partner with the Dutch Wind Consortium together with AkzoNobel, DSM, and Philips. Teaming up with like-minded companies has delivered a new and attractive way to secure additional renewable power in the long term. 

Creating Smarter Homes to Use Less Energy
The Nest Learning Thermostat uses learning algorithms and smart control of residential heating and cooling systems to reduce home energy consumption. As of December 31, 2017, Nest Thermostats has helped customers save more than 17 billion kWh of energy combined, based on average savings studies. This is enough energy to power all of San Francisco's electricity consumption for three years.

Still a Long Way To Go
Reaching our 100% renewable energy purchasing goal was an important milestone, and we will keep increasing our renewable energy purchases as our operations grow. However, this is just the beginning. It represents a head start toward achieving a much greater, longer-term challenge: sourcing carbon-free energy for our operations on a 24x7 basis. Meeting this challenge requires sourcing enough carbon-free energy to match our electricity consumption in all places, at all times. Such an approach looks markedly different from the status quo which, despite our large-scale procurement of renewables, still involves carbon-based power. With a billion new customers in the coming years and a burst in cloud usage—we are more than determined to go the extra mile.