Google estimates that each search emits roughly 0.2 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere, due to the energy it takes to power the cables, routers, and servers that make Google work. That’s on par with the energy it takes to power a lightbulb for 17 seconds. Watching or uploading a video to YouTube is worse. Luckily folk at Google are also dedicated to the “circular economy,” which would require products and materials to be kept in use, rather than thrown away, and for the world to be powered by renewable energy.
In 2017, that meant 18 percent of Google’s new servers were remanufactured machines, and 11 percent of components used for machine upgrades were refurbished inventory. The company sold more than 2 million used machines to others. They have also applied machine learning to the cooling of data centers, cutting energy use by the cooling system by 30 percent. Google also bought 3 gigawatts of wind and solar in 2017 to offset the energy use of its data centers, allowing the company for the first time to match 100 percent of its energy use with renewables. As of 2018, their renewable energy contracts have led to over $3.5 billion in new capital investment around the world.
Google is not alone, Amazon, Netflix and many other groups are in the early majority of smart companies making big investments into the circular–there is a clear ROI and it makes them more competitive. Clean energy rich jurisdictions, like BC, have a lot to offer these giants in talent with green blood and investment opportunities in sustainable innovations that can keep their lights on and power consumption down.
Portions of this text come from a 2018 Wired Magazine interview with Kate Brandt of Google and a 2018 blog post witten by Urs Holzle of Google.