Google on Tuesday announced it will spend $150 million on renewable energy projects in “key manufacturing regions” for its products, including Nest, with a goal to encourage $1.5 billion in capital investment for renewables.
Details on the commitment were scarce. Because the deals are yet to be negotiated, the technology giant could not confirm whether it would spend the funds through direct investments, power-purchase agreements or other means.
A spokesperson told Greentech Media the investments will be made “over the next several years” in projects that will sell into local and regional grid systems in those areas. Alongside its own contributions, the company expects “financial and manufacturing partners (plus debt)” to fund a variety of wind and solar installations. Much of Google's manufacturing is currently based in China.
The projects are meant to complement commitments Google made in August, pledging carbon-neutrality for 100 percent of its shipments to and from customers by 2020. This week, Google said its investment will also “help generate renewable energy that is equivalent to the amount of electricity used to manufacture our Google consumer hardware products.”
The announcement comes on the heels of Google’s plan to invest in 18 deals encompassing 1.6 gigawatts of wind and solar around the world, a portfolio the company calls the largest corporate renewables purchase ever made.
Google timed its “largest-ever” commitment to be announced one day before the recent climate protests around the globe, which involved Google employees who have found fault with their employer’s action on climate change. The latest commitment comes amid continued scrutiny of the company’s climate intentions.
A report the Guardian published last week indicates Google continues contributing to organizations that deny climate science, even as the tech company pledges carbon reductions, significant renewables investments and an overall commitment to sustainability. Google names conservative stalwarts such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the American Conservative Union, a group best known for hosting the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, in a list of groups to which it offers “substantial contributions.”
Google told the Guardian that its “sponsorship doesn’t mean that we endorse that organization’s entire agenda.”
“Our position on climate change is similarly clear,” a Google spokesperson told the Guardian, noting that the tech company used 100 percent renewable energy for all global operations in 2017 and 2018 and has been carbon-neutral since 2007.
Tech companies including Google, which joins peers Microsoft and Facebook atop the leaderboard for 2019 corporate renewables purchases in the U.S., remain at the forefront of the growing commercial and industrial sector.
But the corporate renewables market is evolving, bringing in a greater variety of companies — see smaller purchasers like Etsy and Gap as examples — and a wider array of options for buyers.
In May, Facebook invested tax equity in a renewables project for the first time, a departure from its previous reliance on power-purchase agreements. Groups like LevelTen Energy and the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance are also working to pioneer unique financing and partnership agreements, such as aggregation, to expand availability for wind and solar deals beyond huge companies with similarly gargantuan electricity consumption and balance sheets.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, corporations had already purchased 8.6 gigawatts of solar and wind through July 2019, a figure that doesn’t include the 1.6 gigawatts that Google announced in September. The research group expects purchases made in 2019 to exceed the 13.6 gigawatts that corporations procured last year.
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