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Google Cloud shares carbon-free datacentre energy usage stats with users

Public cloud giant publishes details of its Carbon Free Energy Percentage metric that it hopes companies will use to inform their decisions about where best to run their workloads for sustainability reasons

Google Cloud has committed to sharing data with its customers that shows how much of the energy used to power its datacentre regions comes from renewable sources, so enterprises can make informed decisions about where best to host their workloads from a sustainability perspective.

The public cloud giant will use a Carbon Free Energy Percentage (CFE%) metric to show customers how much of the energy used to power its datacentre regions comes from carbon-free sources, as part of its commitment to wind down its reliance on fossil fuels over time.

The company has begun publishing average hourly CFE% figures for most of its cloud regions around the world on its website and on a specially created GitHub page, with more regions to be added to its dashboards in due course.

Google said it hopes customers will use this data to shift their applications and workloads around to maximise the amount of carbon-free energy available to power them and, in turn, reduce the carbon emissions generated by their own business operations.  

“All regions are matched with 100% carbon-free energy on an annual basis, so the CFE% tells you how well matched the carbon-free energy supply is with our demand,” said the company in a blog post announcing the news. “A lower-scoring region has more hours in the year without a matching, local amount of carbon-free energy.”

The company also gave some pointers on how customers can make the most of the CFE% metric by using its input to pick the most environmentally friendly region in which to run new applications, on the basis that cloud applications tend to stay put once built. “So build and run your new applications in the region with the highest CFE% available to you,” the blog post said.

It also suggested that companies could use the metric to decide the best and most sustainable location in which to run their batch jobs, as these types of workload are often pre-planned, while also urging customers to consider setting organisational policies that restrict certain workloads to specific regions.

“For example, if you want to use only US-based regions, restricting your workloads to run Iowa and Oregon, currently the CFE% leaders, rather than Las Vegas and South Carolina, would mean your app would be supplied by carbon-free energy an average of 68% more often,” said the company.

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Google Cloud name-checked customer relationship management (CRM) software-as-a-service (SaaS) giant Salesforce as an early adopter of the CFE% metric, as it works to reduce the environment impact of its IT strategy through a similar focus on decarbonisation.

“At Salesforce, we believe we must harness the power of innovation and technology across the customer relationship to address the challenge of climate change,” said Patrick Flynn, vice-president of sustainability at Salesforce.

“With Google’s new Carbon Free Energy Percentage, Salesforce can prioritise locations that maximise carbon-free energy, reducing our footprint as we continue to deliver all our customers a carbon-neutral cloud every day.”

News of the initiative coincides with Google Cloud going public with its commitment to ensure that its entire business, across the world and 24 hours a day, runs on carbon-free energy by the year 2030.

“Google first achieved carbon neutrality in 2007, and since 2017 we’ve purchased enough solar and wind energy to match 100% of our global electricity consumption,” the blog post added. “Now we’re building on that progress to target a new sustainability goal: running our business on carbon-free energy, 24/7, everywhere by 2030.”

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