Are tech giants going green?

 By Jim McClelland

The identity of the largest corporate purchaser of clean energy on the planet might come as a surprise to some, but it is actually Google. The company made its first moves into wind farms back in 2010 and has since completed more than 20 separate and significant renewable power investments from Chile to Norway. Given that the Alphabet company’s global energy consumption is on a par with that of the fourth most populous city in the US — San Francisco — the scale and speed of its portfolio-building in clean and green power arguably makes simple business sense. Moreover, the company’s ambition remains undiminished, with the stated target to run entirely on renewables this year, looking highly achievable. In the tech sector, though, they are not alone…

Along with the likes of Silicon Valley giants Microsoft and Facebook, social media pioneer LinkedIn, plus e-commerce behemoths eBay and Amazon, Google is one of 60 multinationals involved in the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), which aims to help corporations purchase 60 GW of additional renewable energy in the US by 2025. Led by four non-profit organizations, including BSR, REBA also coordinates with the We Mean Business RE100 campaign, supporting companies that have signed up to its 100 percent renewable energy commitment. The work of BSR within REBA has prioritized action on renewables for data centers in particular, through its Future of Power initiative, with rising success for obvious reasons, as Manager Kelly Gallo explains:

“With data centers accounting for nearly 2 percent of electricity in the US, the tech sector has made ambitious supply chain sustainability commitments to address its digital carbon footprint. Not only have more than 20 tech companies* made public commitments to use 100 percent renewable energy, but many have taken bold action to power their operations and data centers with renewables, as demonstrated by recent clean power deals made by heavy data center users Salesforce and HP, as well as their service providers, such as Equinix and Switch.”

Solar Google logo

Raising the bar even higher, Apple has created its own subsidiary company Apple Energy to manage its activities on renewables and also has plans approved for the sell-off of excess power generated on its spectacular new Cupertino campus, in California. Taken together, the evidence from across the sector clearly supports the business case for renewables and suggests the investment trend amongst tech companies is no mere fad, but the stuff of serious corporate commitment. While bottom-line interests in secure and sustainable supply for data centers are clearly a prime motivator, the willingness of the organizations concerned to broadcast their actions and achievements also tells a story.

How Google became the worlds largest corporate buyer

Millennials are strong advocates for clean power, not just in principle, but also in practice, with some even prepared to buy a stake in green energy. They are also reported to ‘want purpose over paychecks,’ making career choices on the basis of brand reputation, and influenced by the performance of prospective employers against sustainability metrics including climate awareness, environmental stewardship and responsible investment. Therefore, given that tech is such a notoriously youthful sector, in terms of its entrepreneurial workforce as well as its target consumer, the alignment appears both natural and necessary. In every sense, tech is now home to the clean power generation.

* ICT Companies with 100 percent renewables commitments as of April 29, 2016: Acer America, Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Autodesk, Box Company, BT, Digital Realty, Etsy, Equinix, Facebook, Google, Infosys, IO, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Rackspace, Salesforce, SAP, Switch and Workday.

SEE MORE: Inside the Green Data Center by Marco Alfieri

about the author
Jim McClelland
Editor + journalist for supplements to The Times + Sunday Times, also quoted in Guardian, Sunday Telegraph. I blog for such as GE + Gap. Active on social media. Specialisms include Sustainability.