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Google pairs ‘record-breaking’ green energy deal with European datacentre expansion commitment

Google CEO Sundar Pichai publicly commits to expanding the company’s datacentre footprint in Europe and gives details of its largest-ever renewable energy purchase

Google is investing €3bn to expand its datacentres across Europe over the next two years, and has begun its biggest-ever renewable energy purchase to ensure its business growth does not come at the expense of the environment.

The search giant’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, set out the investment plans in a couple of blog posts, in which he talked about Google’s long-standing efforts to improve the sustainability of its operations through decarbonisation initiatives and its use of renewable energy.

“We’ve been a carbon-neutral company since 2007,” he wrote. “In 2017, we became the first company of our size to match our entire annual electricity consumption with renewable energy (and then we did it again in 2018). As a result, we became the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world.”

Now Google is going a step further by signing a 1,600MW-generating package of 18 power deals that, it claims, collectively constitute the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history.

“These deals will increase our worldwide portfolio of wind and solar agreements by more than 40%, to 5,500MW,” said Pichai. “Once all these projects come online, our carbon-free energy portfolio will produce more electricity than places like Washington DC or entire countries like Lithuania or Uruguay use each year.”

The deals will see Google buy solar energy from renewable sites across the US, Chile and Europe, which the company acknowledges marks something of a change in its green energy sourcing strategy.

“Up to now, most of our renewable energy purchases in the US have been wind-driven, but the declining cost of solar (down more than 80% in the past decade) has made harnessing the sun increasingly cost-effective,” said Pichai.

The company has previously talked about how the sustainability of its operations is becoming an increasingly important part of the discussion it has with enterprises when they are deciding whether to use the Google Cloud Platform.

Read more about green datacentres

Google’s track record on this point has also seen the firm lauded by environmentalists, including Greenpeace, along with the work it has done in recent years to use machine learning and artificial intelligence tools to improve the energy efficiency of its datacentres.

On this point, the company revealed that its energy purchases in Chile will see it embark on a hybrid energy deal that will combine the use of both solar and wind energy and enable the firm to power its facilities in Chile with carbon-free electricity for longer periods of the day.

Alongside its renewable energy investment news, Google has also committed to spending €3bn on building out its datacentre presence even further in Europe over the next two years.

“That will bring our total investment in Europe’s internet infrastructure to €15bn since 2007,” said Pichai. “Our investments generate economic activity for the region and support more than 13,000 full-time jobs in the EU every year, according to a study published by Copenhagen Economics.”

It is unclear exactly how the firm plans to spend all this money, although Pichai said €600m of the investment will go to expanding its existing datacentre presence in Hamina, Finland, in 2020, where the company has already spent €2bn on infrastructure since 2009.

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