Google plans to spend over $2 billion on renewable energy infrastructure

What just happened? Google’s sustainability efforts took a big leap forward today with the company announcing it would spend a record-breaking $2 billion on the construction of renewable energy infrastructure. The agreement consists of purchasing energy from 720 MW of solar farms across three states in the US, 125 MW in Chile, South America, and 793 MW of renewable energy capacity purchased from European countries including Finland, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark.

The Global Climate Strike begins today and will see protests lodged in more than 150 countries over the course of next week. Tech companies are seemingly showing full support towards the cause, with Amazon making significant investments and now Google announcing “the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history.”

“Sustainability has been one of Google’s core values from our earliest days. Over the years we’ve worked hard to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations, build products with people and planet in mind, and drive change at scale through our supply chains,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

The record-breaking purchase comprises of 18 new energy deals that will add nearly 1,600 MW to Google’s portfolio of renewable energy, taking it up to 5,500 MW (a 40 percent increase). The agreements include solar and wind projects that now amount to a fleet of 52 in total and are spread across the continents of America, South America and Europe.

Earlier this week, the company’s employees published a post on Medium announcing to go on strike in support of the climate movement.

An excerpt from the Medium post reads the following:

Tech is not “green.” The carbon footprint of the tech industry’s data centers alone is on par with aviation. While Google makes a commitment to sustainability, stating that its global business operations are carbon neutral (its emissions are offset with equivalent renewable energy investments or carbon offset purchases) and aspiring to long-term 24×7 carbon-free energy consumption (but with no set commitment date), this doesn’t tell the whole story.

Google Cloud makes significant revenue licensing infrastructure, machine learning, and engineering talent to fossil fuel companies, promising to help them extract fuel reserves faster. We know that a liveable future requires keeping these reserves in the ground. And that by making extraction “more efficient” Google trades our collective future for profit.

Also, Google invests in the deadly status quo. In 2018 the company funded 111 members of Congress who voted against climate legislation at least 90% of the time.

This is why Google workers organized with workers from Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and other tech companies to join the Global Climate Strike on September 20, demanding a liveable future for all of us, and pointing out how powerful tech companies push disproportionate risk on the people least responsible for this crisis. As Amazon workers wrote in their open letter: “We have to take responsibility for the impact that our business has on the planet and on people.”

Google employees have also shown support for the following cross-tech climate goals set by Amazon employees for Climate Justice:

  • Zero emissions by 2030.
  • Zero contracts for fossil fuel companies to accelerate oil and gas extraction.
  • Zero funding for climate denying lobbyists and politicians.
  • Zero harm to climate refugees and frontline communities.
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