World’s richest brands bet on the business case for renewable energy

Some of the world’s biggest technology names are betting on renewables, pointing to the growing business case to power internet searches and share photos on social media.

Some of the world’s biggest technology names are betting on renewables, pointing to the growing business case to power internet searches and share photos on social media.

One out of every five units of energy delivered to consumers now comes from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, according to the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

“A further boost has come from bold commitments by the private sector,” said Adnan Amin, the director general of Irena.

“Iconic companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook are committing to procure ren­ewable energy for their operations, while a vibrant small- and medium-size enterprise sector in emerging economies is ­pioneering new and successful models bringing sustainable ­energy to the energy poor.”

Companies such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google – which had a combined annual revenue of around US$500 billion last year – are all setting renewable energy targets.

Apple, the world’s most valuable brand according to Forbes, nearly has all of its global facilities powered by renewables, to the tune of 96 per cent of the electricity needs.

Apple has so far installed just under 500 megawatts of wind and solar projects across six provinces in China and plans, along with suppliers, to procure another 4,000MW of clean power by 2020 to represent 30 per cent of its current manufacturing carbon footprint.

For Google, its ambitions to be completely powered by solar and wind will become a reality this year. The creator of the world’s most popular search engine will purchase 2,600MW of solar and wind energy – which is more than twice as much as the amount of power it took to send Marty McFly back to the future in the classic Hollywood film. “To date, our purchasing commitments will result in infrastructure investments of more than $3.5bn globally, about two-thirds of that in the United States,” said Urs Holzle, senior vice president of technical infrastructure at Google.

The company invests in a project that is on the same power grid as one of its data centre facilities. While the power can’t physically be guaranteed to go to Google’s building, it is enough to make up for the amount of electricity the company is using.

Both Amazon and Facebook are also looking to cover 100 per cent of power needs via clean energy sources as well.

Amazon ran past its goal of 40 per cent last year and is now looking to target 50 per cent this year.

Facebook plans to generate at least half of its company’s energy mix generated by clean and renewable energy sources next year. Currently the social media heavyweight has powered three data centres – one in Sweden and two in the United States – by clean energy. And next up on the list is to add another four data centres spanning Ireland, Denmark and the United States.

Facebook said that getting renewable energy is more difficult than it should be, and is using its platform to help encourage other companies to ask local utilities to bring more of the energy online.

Irena places the current share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption at just over 18 per cent, but said that stronger policies and regulation remain crucial to advance market development.

But it also doesn’t hurt to have some of the world’s richest companies knocking on the door demanding more green.

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