Google’s Carbon-Free 24/7 Target Showing Businesses the Next Step for Sustainability—How Are They Achieving It by 2030?

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By Sam Torbet | 3Q 2023 | IN-7053

Google signs a new Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Apex Clean Energy for the entire Timbermill Wind project construction totaling 189 Megawatts (MW) of renewable energy. This is another step toward Google’s energy commitment, but there is still a way to go before reaching its goal.

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189 MW of Renewable Energy Added to Google's Portfolio


Google recently signed another Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for 189 Megawatts (MW) from Apex Clean Energy using the entire upcoming Timbermill Wind project to contribute toward data centers on the grid. Google’s commitments are to be 100% carbon free 24/7 by 2030; this is another step toward the all-important target. The Timbermill Wind project is in North Carolina, United States, and is expected to be a boost for the economy with US$33 million in tax revenue and more than 150 jobs during construction.

Google's Ambitious Sustainability Plan and Where It Stands


As stated, this PPA is to further Google’s sustainability and energy commitments by 2030. Google’s goal is to be carbon free 24/7 by 2030, and it has impressively managed to match 100% of its electricity consumption with renewable energy purchases for the past 5 years, but there are areas and times where renewable energy is not possible. This is why Google’s 2030 target is more complex than the usual pledge to meet electricity consumption and be net zero. This target demonstrates what will come after current energy and sustainability pledges from other enterprises, as the majority of them are just to match 100% of the electricity consumption amount.

Google’s operations in North Carolina are currently sitting at around 65% carbon free. This new PPA will help increase that percentage, but the question remains, how will Google cover the remaining balance by 2030 as projects have a tendency to be delayed and run late. A look at Google’s other areas further raises concerns about what it plans to do in states and countries where renewable technology is lagging behind. It may have reported being 64% carbon free, but the next 36% will surely be difficult to achieve.

How Google Is Achieving the Goal and What This Means for You


As enterprises get closer to 2025 or 2030 sustainability targets, the next step must be considered in terms of how they will differentiate themselves from the competition. Tracking progress and updates is the first step to showcasing major steps toward your goal and beating the competition. But Google has laid out a path with a carbon free 24/7 goal, which should be the next step for enterprises that operate over different regions. Google is achieving this goal through three main methods: 1) purchasing carbon-free energy (through PPAs in the same physical regions); 2) accelerating new and improved technologies (increasing efficiency); and 3) transforming the energy system through partnership and advocacy (through programs and schemes).

PPAs are, not surprisingly, one of the fastest ways for enterprises to attain sustainability and net-zero goals, as there is a direct connection from generation to consumption, especially with physical PPAs. Other enterprises should start seriously considering PPAs as they have started to open up in variety in order to meet a business’ needs. A recent trend of shorter-term PPAs allows businesses to meet targets, while not committing too much of their time to one agreement when they might have better opportunities later or plan to develop alternative methods of achieving their sustainability targets. Within the past couple of days, the Orange Romania Group had its first signing of a Virtual PPA (vPPA) with ENGIE to cover its annual electricity needs of 30 Gigawatt Hours (GWh) for the next 6 years. As for larger-scale projects, Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway company, recently entered into a corporate PPA with Centrica Energy Trading for a short 2-year term for 60.7 MW.

The following companies are common names providing PPAs:

  • Enel X
  • Ørsted
  • EDF Energy
  • RWE
  • Iberdrola

This does not completely solve the problem of being carbon free 24/7, because at some point, installation will need to be offline for repairs and maintenance. This is when battery storage will need to wither in the form of on-site storage or through a PPA again. As of July 2023, Pexapark and investor DIF announced a PPA that covers 55 MW of solar with a 40 MW battery energy storage capacity. This will become a popular trend in the near future when solar installations will happen as hybrids with battery storage in order to continuously meet demands. This demand is only further backed by Google’s display of nighttime hours dropping in carbon-free energy for the majority of its sites.



Companies Mentioned