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Google on track to go 100 per cent renewable this year, report says

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In its latest Environmental Report, the internet giant has detailed how it has achieved and sustained carbon neutrality, and predicts that it is due to go 100 per cent renewable by the end of 2017.

Google – which reportedly consumes as much energy as the entire city of San Francisco – has been carbon-neutral for the past decade. In order to achieve this, the company said, it has pursued “aggressive energy, efficiency initiatives, renewable energy, and carbon offsets.”

In its 2016 Environmental Report, the company stated that it would switch to purely renewable energy sources by 2017, cutting out the necessity for carbon offsets, which have always been an “interim solution”.

“In 2017, Google will reach 100 per cent renewable energy for our global operations – including both our data centres and offices,” wrote Urs Hölzle, senior vice-present for technical infrastructure at Google Cloud, in a blog post.

“That means that we will directly purchase enough wind and solar electricty annually to account for every unit of electricity we consume, globally.”

Google claims to be the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, having reached agreements covering 2.6GW of renewable capacity since 2010: the equivalent of the power generated by approximately 1000 onshore wind turbines.

In order to reduce its energy consumption such that its offices and data centres can run just on limited renewable energy sources, Google has installed high-performance servers, smart temperature and lighting controls, and used efficient cooling techniques in its data centres, which power Gmail, Google Search, YouTube and other platforms.

According to its 2017 report, these data centres use half as much energy as a typical data centre and deliver 3.5 times as much computing power with the same supply of power.

Other companies with carbon-neutral initiatives include Tesco, Sky, Asos, Dell, PepsiCo, Microsoft and HSBC, although Google is the largest company to have achieved carbon neutrality so far. Just two small countries today are carbon-neutral (Vatican City and Bhutan), although a number of others, including Iceland, Norway and Sweden, are in the process of reducing their carbon footprint to zero.

Google’s environmental report also provided an update on the company’s ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’ targets for its data centres; six of its 14 data centres, it says, have achieved 100 per cent landfill diversion, and just one has achieved zero waste to landfill.

It also describes Google’s long-running Earth Outreach programme, which aims to engage non-profit groups with using Google Earth and Google Maps to “visualise their cause and tell their story”. As part of this programme, cloud computing, machine learning and other technology is being employed to “build a living, breathing dashboard of the planet, creating new insights in local communities and at a global scale.”

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