Google plans to run its entire global business with 24-hour zero-carbon energy by 2030 in what it called its “biggest sustainability moonshot” that will tap huge extra amounts of wind and solar power – and look to new technologies such as green hydrogen and even nuclear.
The US internet giant said a combination of clean-generation cost falls and technological advances mean “the promise of 24/7 clean energy will soon be within reach”, as it seeks to go beyond the milestone it reached in 2017 when it matched its total global power consumption with renewable energy purchases.
But Google said that masked wide variations in the levels of clean power used in its data centres and other operations around the world, and the ongoing need to tap carbon-emitting sources to plug gaps in supply when variable wind and solar generators were unable to deliver.
“Achieving 24/7 carbon-free energy means we will have clean energy available for every hour on every grid — completely eliminating carbon emissions associated with Google’s electricity use,” said the company as it unveiled the new objective, which it added “won’t be easy”.
Google is already the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable power with output from 5.5GW of wind and solar under contract.
The technology giant claimed it will help spur 5GW and $5bn of new carbon-free energy investments across its key regions to help it meet the 2030 goal.
Meeting the target will include more ‘blended’ purchases of wind and solar power – enabling the two key renewable sources to combine their stronger attributes at night and daytime – investments in battery storage facilities and more use of machine learning to increase the efficiency of renewable generation.
Google also indicated that it will look beyond wind and solar.
“To reach our goal in locations with limited land or renewable resources, or to address seasonal variations in wind or sunshine, we’ll explore opportunities to source power from emerging tools, such as advanced nuclear, enhanced geothermal, green hydrogen, long-duration storage, or carbon capture and storage,” it said.
A new generation of flexible, smaller-scale nuclear technologies are being touted by some as a key enabler of he energy transition thanks to their ability to deliver baseload carbon-free power as a back-up to variable renewables.
“By seeking to be an early adopter for these and other new technologies, Google can do what we helped do for wind and solar power: accelerate learning curves, drive down costs, and democratize access to tools the world urgently needs to address climate change.”
“This is our biggest sustainability moonshot yet, with enormous practical and technical complexity. We are the first major company that's set out to do this, and we aim to be the first to achieve it,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai.