May 4, 2021 - Energy & Environment

What's next for Google's data center carbon plan

Planet lifted up by mouse cursors

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Google and the energy company AES announced a 10-year deal to supply three Northern Virginia data centers with 90% power from zero-emissions sources on an hourly basis.

Why it matters: It's the latest move in Google's pledge to have all its operations run round-the-clock on carbon-free power by 2030.

Data centers use lots of power. Google says it already buys enough renewable power annually to match the company's power use.

  • But that's not the same thing as never relying on fossil generation, and its operations rely on grids with varying levels of coal and gas.
  • Google said last month that five data center sites — in Denmark, Finland, Iowa, Oklahoma and Oregon — are now around 90% carbon-free 24/7.

How it works: AES said it would supply Google with a 500-megawatt mix of wind, solar, hydro and battery storage it will develop or contract.

  • The portfolio will require roughly $600 million of investment and generate 1,200 permanent and temporary jobs, it said, while calling it a way to help decarbonize the region's grid more broadly.
  • "Our plan is to provide this kind of carbon-free energy product in the future to a wide range of customers in similar circumstances," AES Clean Energy President Leo Moreno tells Axios.

The big picture: Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Axios' Andrew Freedman that relying only on carbon-free power around the clock everywhere is their "moonshot goal."

  • "Moving to a world where we are able to operate by sourcing clean energy for every location and where you are, and, and doing it across your operational footprint in everything you do — I think that's profound," he said in a recent interview.
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