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IT companies are increasingly switching to renewable energy to support power-hungry data centres

Renewables could power half the IT industry by 2020

The IT industry in the US is rapidly transitioning to green energy and could meet nearly half its electricity needs from renewables by 2020, according to new research.

A first-of-its-kind analysis by the US Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that the 113 ICT companies it looked at - including Apple, Facebook and Google - are meeting 14 per cent of their electricity needs from renewable sources. By 2020, it is estimated that this figure could increase to almost 50 per cent.

The report, "Renewable Electricity Use by the U.S. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Industry," found that many larger firms were entering long-term commitments to support the development of new renewable energy generators near new power-hungry data centres.

"The ICT sector is a big consumer of electricity in the United States," NREL senior energy analyst Jenny Heeter said. "ICT companies are increasingly making long-term commitments to renewable generation, such as through 20-year power purchase agreements."

The 59 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity the 113 US-based companies consumed in 2014 represents 1.5 per cent of total US electricity consumption. Of that, 8.3 million MWh came from renewable electricity, a figure that could rise to between 18.5 million and 37 million MWh by 2020.

"Twenty leading ICT companies have renewable electricity goals," NREL analyst John Miller said. "Goals range in size from eight per cent to 100 per cent renewable electricity use, with an average goal of approximately 64 per cent."

The report said that financial incentives and corporate social responsibility goals could encourage a larger share of ICT companies to purchase renewable electricity and could prompt companies already purchasing to increase their commitments.

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