This article first appeared in our Sustainable IT special issue of of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 05 November 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
In 2007, Google became the first major company to go carbon neutral, and in 2017 it became the first major company to match 100% of its annual electricity consumption with renewable energy.
The company has signed agreements to buy power from more than 50 renewable energy projects, with a combined capacity of 5.5GW, and plans to get all its data centres and campuses operating on carbon-free energy – 24/7 – by 2030.
This is vital because the amount of computing done in Google data centres continues to grow. This was especially true in 2020 – a year when many people’s work, school, doctor’s appointments, first dates and visits with loved ones moved online.
Even as Google Meet and Duo hosted over a trillion minutes of video calls in 2020, its renewable energy procurement kept pace.
But can cloud computing bring additional benefits to customers by reducing their emissions from data centres and devices?
Reducing emissions and enabling change
Recent Accenture analysis suggested migrations to the public cloud can reduce global carbon emissions by 59 million tonnes of CO2 per year. This represents a 5.9% reduction in total IT emissions and equates to taking 22 million cars off the road.
The analysis also found that cloud migration that considered sustainability as a factor could deliver a ‘double helix’ benefit of shareholder and stakeholder value by simultaneously reducing costs and carbon emissions.
For any organisation, but particularly for data-intensive businesses, a reduction of this magnitude is a significant step towards meeting climate change commitments.
Cloud computing has one other major advantage: it enables the use of lower energy devices and the move to new ways of working, through which even more significant sustainability benefits can be achieved.
The benefits of Chrome OS
Google’s Chrome operating system was born in the cloud, and introduced a modern, more efficient and sustainable way of computing.
Chrome OS devices from partners such as Acer, Asus, Dell and HP are offered in versatile form factors such as clamshells, tablets and convertibles.