Tech giant Google has announced it has purchased three gigawatts of clean energy capacity — matching the energy it takes to maintain operations for one year. The move is part of a larger trend of tech companies taking steps to influence renewable energy demand, according to a corporate sustainability researcher at Cornell University.
Glen Dowell is a corporate sustainability researcher and associate professor of management and organizations at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. He says the decisions tech companies are making to prioritize renewables are potentially filling the void left by Washington.
“Google’s recent purchase of more than three gigawatts of Renewable Energy Certificates continues a trend of tech companies driving demand for renewable energy (e.g. Apple’s announcement that it would only build new data centers in Iowa if they could be 100 percent wind-powered), and potentially stepping into the void left by the federal government’s backtracking on climate issues.
“Google’s purchase reflects the reality that, while the White House’s stance on climate change is certainly important, many other factors influence the demand for clean energy as well. For example, companies like Google operate in many areas that already have carbon-reduction policies, such as California and the European Union, and these jurisdictions, as well as pressure by shareholders and other stakeholders, can help foster demand for clean energy.
“Whether such factors can completely overcome the gap left by the federal government, however, is a critical question.”