As the administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump prepares to back out of the Paris Agreement and cancel President Obama’s signature climate and energy policies, the highest profile company in Silicon Valley is doubling down on its commitment to renewable energy.
Yesterday Google announced that it would be sourcing 100% of its electricity for both its data centers and its offices from renewable energy in 2017. The company already has signed 20 power purchase agreements (PPAs) with renewable facilities, for a total of 2.6 GW.
This makes Google the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with a contracted capacity more than twice that of Amazon, and four times the Department of Defense. And while the vast majority of contracted capacity to date is wind, the company also has contracts with over 100 MW of solar.
In 2017 Google will begin buying power from Acciona’s 247 MW El Romero PV plant in Chile, which is the largest solar plant to be completed in Latin America to date.
Google says that the falling cost of wind and solar have enabled its purchases, but also notes the benefits of predictable and stable power prices. “Over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option,” stated Google Senior VP of Technical Infrastructure Urs Hölzle.
“Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our data centers, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy.”
Overall, Google estimates that its renewable energy purchases have resulted in $.35 billion in global capital investments. In 2015 alone, Google signed six new PPAs totaling 842 MW of capacity, and to date around 2/3 of its contracted renewable energy capacity is in the United States. The company has not said how much capacity it will add to reach the 100% goal.
Google has been buying power from renewables since 2010, and the company filed with federal regulators to become an independent power producer in the same year. Google has also launched a project to measure irradiation and provide other metrics for potential buyers of PV plants, Project Sunroof.
Google has also made it clear that it is acting on the threat that Climate Change poses, in stark contrast with the nation’s Republican Party, which now controls both houses of Congress and the executive branch.
"The science tells us that tackling climate change is an urgent global priority,” says Hölzle. “We believe the private sector, in partnership with policy leaders, must take bold steps and that we can do so in a way that leads to growth and opportunity. And we have a responsibility to do so — to our users and the environment.”