The internet’s power bill is big, and only getting bigger. Today, the huge data centers run by companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon use roughly 2 percent of the world’s electricity, and some studies project an increase to as high as 8 percent over the next decade. Recognizing the environmental impact, the biggest tech companies have launched campaigns to substitute carbon-free energy; in 2017, Google announced that they had reached their goal of purchasing enough renewable energy to offset all of their operations.
Recently, Google set an even higher standard for itself: not just offsetting its energy use on a global and annual basis, but moving towards round-the-clock “hourly matching” of green energy at their data centers. Instead of buying wind or solar power when there is a surplus of these renewables in order to cancel out their carbon footprint, Google wants to make sure it is buying enough carbon-free energy to offset their activity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Some centers, such as a location in Finland, already achieve this “hourly offset” 97 percent of the time. Others, such as a data center in Taiwan, perform much more poorly. Meeting this goal will require not only hourly matching, but also regional matching — using clean energy generated near data centers, rather than in another part of the world.