Don’t Fall for Google’s Foray into Renewable Energy; It’s a Gimmick

Published January 29, 2017

A recent article entitled “No Matter What Trump Does, Green Energy Will Prevail,” appearing in Wired, claimed Google would reach 100 percent renewable energy in 2017. While this sentence gives Wired’s liberal readership warm fuzzy feelings inside, it is a misleading claim because there is no way Google will run on entirely renewable energy this year, or in the coming years.

When companies claim they run on 100 percent renewable energy, casual readers often interpret that as meaning companies like Google run on renewable energy 24-7, 365 days a years, but this simply isn’t the case for a few reasons. 

Renewable sources like wind and solar are unreliable. Wind and solar only produce energy about 33, and 15 percent of the time, respectively. If Google actually relied on renewable energy 100 percent of the time, Google searches would be unavailable approximately 16 hour out of every day. If this were the case, most people would switch to another search engine. When wind and solar are not generating electricity, Google depends on electricity generated by burning coal, natural gas, and nuclear power sources. Hardly 100 percent renewable.

So how can companies like Google claim they use 100 percent renewable power? According to Google’s own explanation of their plan, it comes down to these companies purchases Renewable Energy Certificates, which allows Google to buy renewable energy generated at wholesale cost, which is significantly lower than retail cost, and then sell that power back into the grid for the higher retail rate.

Google’s foray into renewable energy is not an altruistic endeavor to save the world, it is a cheap marketing gimmick to appear “green” that allows the company to make a profit by exploiting policies that subsidize renewable energy.