Driven by ambitious sustainability goals, Google’s Climate Operations team partnered with Electricity Maps to reduce its carbon footprint and enable other companies to do the same.
Google is on a mission to foster sustainability at scale by organizing the world’s information and making it accessible and actionable through technology. To support this mission, new innovative initiatives, projects, and thought-leading efforts are needed.
Since Google began purchasing renewable energy in 2010, the company has been responsible for more than 60 new clean energy projects with a combined capacity of over 7 gigawatts — about the same as 20 million solar panels. 2021 marked the fifth year in a row where Google matched 100% of its annual global electricity usage with renewable energy purchases.
To go one step further, Google set the goal of matching its electricity consumption with locally sourced clean energy, every hour of every day, by 2030 - a goal it calls ‘24/7 carbon-free energy’. This will require evolving existing methods of annual renewable energy matching, and by taking the lead in driving this transition Google seeks to not only decarbonize its own operational energy use but also to empower its users to limit their carbon footprint and participate in positive change.
To support Google’s mission, three projects were identified:
When searching for a partner to advance its 24/7 carbon-free energy goals, Google sought to identify an organization with strong data quality and geographical coverage, transparency, scalability, and subject matter expertise. Electricity Maps met Google’s high standards, and the two organizations kicked off the collaboration by setting ambitious goals and outlining a set of innovative projects to build together.
Data and Software Climate Solutions Lead
The first project, Google uses Electricity Maps data to calculate the carbon intensity of the electricity powering Google’s data centers. Understanding the CO2 emissions on an hourly basis from each data center allows for data-driven decisions that can reduce emissions and help Google on their path to 24/7 carbon free energy.
To operationalize this project, Google utilized Electricity Maps data to target the use of load-shifting technology in order to shift flexible loads, i.e. tasks with no time constraint, to times of the day that align with the availability of electricity with a lower carbon intensity. Flexible loads can also be shifted to different data centers around the world, allowing for data centers to work harder in times and places where clean energy is most readily available. Today, this project allows Google to reduce its carbon footprint by shifting compute loads without negatively impacting the performance or reliability of its services.
The second project is focused on supporting Google’s goal of operating entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030. In order to achieve this, 24/7 reporting is needed to assess the current carbon footprint of Google’s operational energy use and track progress toward reaching its goal.
Using Electricity Maps data representing the electricity grid for countries across the world allows Google to evaluate the true carbon footprint of its electricity consumption and factor this into its planning and decision making.
The third project united Google and Electricity Maps’ shared goal of empowering others to participate in the transition towards carbon-free electricity systems. The carbon-footprint calculator, launched for Google Cloud customers, allows companies to select the cloud regions where their computing tasks are run and suggests locations with low carbon intensities.
Within the platform, Google Cloud customers can see their carbon footprint based on their usage of Google’s cloud regions, calculated based on location-based hourly grid emissions. Today, this allows a vast amount of companies to take action.
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