Originally posted on Google Cloud’s blog on 14 April 2022
By: Caroline Golin and Nick Pearson
In 2020, Google set its most ambitious sustainability goal to date: By 2030, we aim to operate entirely on carbon-free energy (CFE) — around the clock — at our data centers and offices worldwide. This means matching each hour of our electricity consumption with carbon-free electricity sources on every grid where we operate.
Securing round-the-clock carbon-free energy isn’t just important for Google – it’s also critical for the world to successfully tackle the urgent challenge of climate change. The electricity sector is the linchpin of this effort, as it is both a significant contributor to global carbon emissions and a tool to enable the decarbonization of other parts of the economy, such as buildings, transportation, and heavy industry.
When Google announced our 24/7 CFE goal, we identified three ways to advance toward it. First, develop new transactional approaches for buying clean energy around the clock. Second, support the commercialization of next-generation clean energy technologies and develop smart solutions for managing electricity demand. Finally, develop partnerships and advocate for policies that accelerate the decarbonization of electricity grids across the world.
This last pillar is critical: to achieve 24/7 CFE, both for our own operations and for economies more broadly, we must do more than just purchase clean energy — we must work to transform electricity systems. That change can only happen if we work collaboratively to reform the policies and regulations that have shaped the electricity industry for more than a century. That’s why today we are releasing a new clean energy policy roadmap, informed by over a decade of experience as a large electricity user and major clean energy buyer across the globe.
While rapid progress in cost-effective carbon-free energy technology has put the prospect of decarbonized electricity grids within reach, it is not inevitable; this transition will be slower, more expensive, and less certain without the right public policies. We are committed to working with stakeholders across the globe to advocate for policies that accelerate grid decarbonization for everyone.
Policy priorities for grid decarbonization
Our policy roadmap identifies three core goals — advance technology, expand and reform markets, and empower consumers — that policymakers should prioritize to accelerate the transition to a reliable, cost-effective, inclusive, and carbon-free electricity system.
Advance technology: Policies should support the development, commercialization, and deployment of a broad portfolio of carbon-free energy technologies, maintain existing carbon-free resources, and speed the replacement of carbon-emitting ones. These policies include clean energy standards, CFE investment incentives, and measures that remove barriers to the electricity transmission infrastructure that is critical to cost-effectively deliver clean power from where it’s generated to where it’s needed.
Expand and reform markets: As a major electricity buyer across dozens of regions worldwide, our experience has taught us that regional and competitive wholesale electricity markets are key vehicles to accelerate clean energy adoption and lower costs for electricity consumers. Policymakers should work to create and expand regional and competitive wholesale electricity markets where they don’t exist today. They should also reform markets to value the contribution of all carbon-free energy sources, and to move towards models that are more integrated and flexible across supply and demand.
Empower consumers: Policy reforms are needed to unleash the power of customer demand to accelerate the clean energy transition. This means creating legal and cost-effective pathways to clean energy for all consumers, providing customers access to transparent, granular, high-quality energy data, and designing regulatory structures that incentivize consumer participation. For example, policymakers can support the development of time-based energy attribute certificates (T-EACs) that can enable consumers to increase their decarbonization impact.
Working together to advance clean energy policy
Identifying the right policies is only a first step. To drive the policy and market changes needed over the next decade will require hard work from everyone, including the private sector. We all have a stake in the policies and regulations that shape electricity systems, and we must use our voices and organize around the common objective of complete, rapid, and cost-effective decarbonization. This is why Google worked with our partners at UN Energy and Sustainable Energy for All to launch the global 24/7 Carbon-free Energy Compact — a set of commitments and actions from energy buyers, energy suppliers, governments, system operators, solutions providers, investors, and other organizations to advance 24/7 CFE. It’s also why we’ve been a vocal supporter of legislation to advance clean energy in the United States and other countries around the world.
As we advance toward our goal of 24/7 CFE by 2030, we commit to working with others and advocating for clean energy policies that enable 24/7 CFE for all energy consumers and decarbonize electricity grids at the scale and pace required to meet the urgency of the world’s climate challenge.