Can Clean Energy Power The Internet?

Can Clean Energy Power The Internet?

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“Large tech companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon are responsible for more than just changing the way the world interacts and buys goods and services – these tech giants could also hold the key to establishing green energy usage for the larger part of the world’s population.”

The link between large Internet companies and green energy may not be obvious at first, especially as most people only consider the energy they directly use in powering their devices. However, the majority of the power used by the Internet is not connected to individual devices; instead, it is used by huge data centers that power the cloud and provide streaming video services to millions of customers.

As people move more of their daily lives online, they deserve to know which companies are working to power their favorite sites and services with renewable energy. And because these large companies have such a high stake in promoting clean energy use, it is important for users to know their track records and stance on renewable power sources so that they can choose to stream and share with companies that are helping to build a greener Internet.

Who Is Really Green Online?

Escalating demand for data storage and video streaming will make the move to sustainable and clean energy, ever more desirable in the future – in fact, experts believe that by 2020, more than 75 percent of the Internet’s energy usage will be devoted to video streaming. According to Alberta Energy, the process of generating electricity for a number of daily needs (including Internet use) accounts for nearly 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, directly contributing to global warming. As demand for energy continues to rise, it’s crucial this reality inform the decisions of large companies on their source for power in coming years.

However, this is not as simple as it seems as many Internet companies are hampered in their efforts where access to renewable sources of energy is restricted by dirty energy-dependent monopolies. Although state policymakers offer significant tax breaks as incentive to locate data centers in their states, there are a number of laws that prohibit purchasing clean, renewable energy from non-monopoly utilities, and must be revised through legislative advocacy. Furthermore, large energy companies that promote the use of fossil fuels are extremely active in lobbying for changes to the law that would tie the hands of such Internet companies in terms of using renewable energy, allowing these dirty energy companies to continue to provide the electricity for massive, and growing, data centers and the Internet.

Some companies have done a better job at making the switch to renewables than others. Among the top companies for green energy, according to Greenpeace’s Clean Click Report, are Apple, which has invested heavily in solar and wind power, and Google, which has invested in building clean energy sources. However, the report does not give high marks to companies like Amazon that have been less than transparent with their efforts and refuse to disclose the source of much of their data center power.

The ‘Breakthrough Energy Coalition’ Offers Possibilities

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition was founded by tech leaders like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and includes board members such as Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce.com; Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon; Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group; Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates and numerous figures of importance from the fields of business and government from around the world. Introduced at this year’s COP21 Conference, the coalition’s stated mission is to focus on funding early-stage companies with the potential for producing zero carbon emissions while providing affordable and reliable energy.

bill Gates, Co-Chair
Bill Gates, Breakthrough Energy Coalition. image: Breakthrough Energy Coalition

While many of the group’s members have made clean energy strides with their own companies, through the coalition, members have committed to investing substantial amounts of their fortunes in early stage and startup energy companies. Not only do these leaders have the influence to significantly affect the view on clean energy usage in the Internet sector, but they say they will fund startups in a number of industries ranging from electricity storage to transportation and agriculture.

Largely led by the creative minds leading today’s successful Internet companies, there are clear signs of a dramatic shift in both energy sourcing and consumption. With the help of organizations like the Breakthrough Energy Coalition to fund new research, and the support of large tech companies like Google with a true commitment to building and using clean energy sources, the world’s population can avoid the problems inherent in climate change and move toward a sustainable future.

Energy Innovation by Bill Gates PDF.

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