Smart city

Web giants championing solar- and wind-power

  • 10 May
  • 2 min

The power purchasing strategies being pursued by the Internet giants may help to shape the future energy policies of other types of businesses and public service providers.

The five leading Information and Communication Technology (ICT) giants Google, Apple,Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft are playing a considerable role on the environmental front as these companies are all major supporters of 'green' energy. Figures published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicate that last year the Big Five were the world's leading purchasers and consumers of renewable energies (RES) – thus not only helping to brake man-made climate change but also helping to drive down the projected cost of RES-generated power below that of fossil-generated electricity within a few years. In fact in 2017, Google purchased enough renewable energy to match all the electricity consumed by the company's operations. What this means is that for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity consumed by Google's office buildings and data centers – whose vast data storage and processing needs call for enormous quantities of power – the company purchased one kWh of power generated by a solar or wind farm. Apple also announced last month that all its facilities around the world, including its brand-new headquarters in California, were now running on RES-generated electricity. Meanwhile giant retailer Walmart has set a target of powering half of the company's energy needs from renewable sources, which raises the question whether firms in other sectors of industry, and also smaller companies, will soon start to follow suit. However, as Web businesses have a particularly large carbon footprint – the ICT industry accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions, approximately equal to emissions from aviation – it seems clear that the worldwide transition to a cleaner energy system will not be possible without determined action from the Internet Big Five.

By Marie-Eléonore Noiré