Tech giants are jockeying to be the first to hit a 100% renewable energy goal. Google, which has invested in solar and wind energy for a decade, intends to get there by 2017.

Google is the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy, and plans to buy enough wind and solar energy to offset all the electricity used by its 13 data centers and offices in 150 cities worldwide, the company said Tuesday.

Apple seems close to reaching its own 100% goal as well. The company said it achieved 93% in 2015. An Apple spokeswoman said the company has yet to set a year for when they would likely cross the finish line.

For Google, hitting the 100% target means for every unit of electricity it consumes – typically from coal or natural gas power plants – it would buy a unit of wind or solar electricity. The company wouldn’t say how much electricity it will need to have purchased by the end of next year to reach its 100% goal, but did say that the amount would exceed the 5.7 terawatt-hours solar and wind energy that it bought in 2015.

“We want to run our business in an environmentally responsible way, and energy consumption is the largest portion,” said Neha Palmer, head of energy strategy and development at Google’s Global Infrastructure Group.

Google is taking a big leap to that 100% goal, having achieved just 37% in 2014. The company has invested in renewable energy ever since it kicked off the construction of a 1.6-megawatt solar energy system in 2006. Since 2010, it’s signed 2.6 gigawatts worth of solar and wind contracts.

The tech giant isn’t alone in setting the 100% target. A global campaign to promote 100% renewable energy use in the business world includes Ikea, Facebook, Starbucks and Johnson & Johnson.

Businesses, like homeowners, have historically relied on their local utilities for power. In 2015, about 67% of the electricity generated in the US came from fossil fuels. Businesses would have to build and run their own solar or wind farms if they want to hit their 100% more quickly, but that will require hefty investments and expertise they don’t have. As a result, when companies set strong renewable energy goals, they often reach them by buying enough solar and wind electricity or renewable energy credits to offset their use of electricity from coal or natural gas power plants.

Some companies, such as Google and Microsoft, have invested in solar and wind power plants to help increase the amount of renewable energy the local electric grids. Or, using their clout as large energy customers, they work on convincing their local utilities to invest in renewable energy.

Once extremely expensive, solar and wind have seen their prices falling significantly in the past 10 years. Government tax breaks have also helped to make solar and wind more affordable to both businesses and homeowners.

The price for building large solar farms, that have the scale to provide utilities, dropped 12% in 2015, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy.

Market analysts expect the prices to continue to fall even with the abundance of cheap coal and natural gas. The pressure on countries around the world to meet their targets from the Paris climate agreement, which went into effect last month, will make renewable energy attractive, said Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The research firm has projected that solar and wind will become the cheapest sources of electricity for “most of the world” after 2030.

“Renewable energy has become incredibly cost effective,” said Dan Kammen, a professor of energy at the University of California-Berkeley. “There is no company on the planet that can’t make a 100% energy target a viable, cost-effective strategy.”

Yet most businesses have yet to set a renewable energy target. That’s because cost isn’t the only issue. Big companies tend to have an advantage over smaller firms because they have the resources to understand the energy markets and negotiating contracts to buy renewable energy, said Colin Smith, solar analyst for GTM Research.

“You’re talking about very complex deals and arrangements with unique risk profiles that most companies aren’t fully well equipped to understand,” he said.

Source: theguardianuk