Why Tech and Renewables Go Hand-in-Hand

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It is said the only time you notice electricity is when it’s out. Soon, we’ll live in a world where the same can be said for the Internet—you only notice it when you’re not connected to it.

Today, Axios wrote an update on Google’s efforts to go 100% renewable for all of its electricity needs. As the piece notes, our increasingly online lives put more and more demand on Big Tech’s data centers, which use a lot of energy.

This Nature.com article from last year quantifies the electricity these data centers and other electronic devices suck from the system: An estimated 200 terawatt hours of energy annually, which is more than the entire energy consumption of some countries.

“…[O]ne of the most worrying models predicts that electricity use by [information and communications technology] could exceed 20% of the global total by the time a child born today reaches her teens, with data centres using more than one-third of that.”

According to Alinta Energy, Google’s operations consume enough energy to power 200,000 homes, while a PlayStation 3 uses five times more energy than a refrigerator. Even as technological advancements make these operations more efficient, clean and renewable energy is a must to reduce our carbon footprint.

While many companies are addressing this with increased investments in solar, wind and other clean sources for data centers, there is room for improvement. As one Yale Environment 360 reporter explains, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have at times built their data hubs in or sourced energy from Scandinavia, where renewables are plentiful.

As connectivity becomes commonplace, electricity demand will grow, as will the need for clean energy sources to offset the damage of climate change. And as large tech companies increase their use of renewables, with some using sources outside of the U.S., then we risk falling behind the rest of the world if we fail to make clean energy investment a priority.