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Google Hits Renewable Energy Goal In Quest To Pare Pollution

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Windmills at a wind farm in Oklahoma provide Google with some of its renewable energy (AP).

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google is crossing a milestone in its quest to reduce pollution caused by its digital services that devour massive amounts of electricity.

The internet company believes that beginning next year, it will have amassed enough renewable energy to meet all of its electricity needs throughout the world.

That’s significant, given Google’s ravenous appetite for electricity to power its offices and the huge data centres that process requests on its dominant search engine, store Gmail, YouTube video clips and photos for more than a billion people.

Google says its 13 data centres and offices consume about 5.7 terawatt hours of electricity annually — nearly the same amount as San Francisco, where more than 800,000 people live and tens of thousands of others come to work and visit.

The accomplishment announced Tuesday doesn’t mean Google will be able to power its operations solely on wind and solar power. That’s not possible because of the complicated way that power grids and regulations are set up around the US and the rest of the world.

Google instead believes it is now in a position to offset every megawatt hour of electricity supplied by a power plant running on fossil fuels with renewable energy that the Mountain View, California, company has purchased through a variety of contracts. About 95 per cent of Google’s renewable energy deals come from wind power farms, with the remainder from solar power.

Nearly 20 other technology companies also have pledged to secure enough renewable energy to power their worldwide operations, said Gary Cook, senior energy campaigner for the environmental group Greenpeace.

Google made its commitment four years ago and appears to be the first big company to have fulfilled the promise.

Apple is getting close to matching its rival. The iPhone maker says it has secured enough renewable energy to power about 93 per cent of its worldwide operations. Apple is also trying to convert more of the overseas suppliers that manufacture the iPhone and other devices to renewable energy sources, but that goal is expected to take years to reach.

Cook said the symbolic message sent by Google’s achievement is important to environmental experts who believe electricity generated with coal and natural gas is causing damage that is contributing to extreme swings in the climate.

MICHAEL LIEDTKE,

AP Technology Writer

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