Google reveals 1.5 million tonne carbon footprint

12th September 2011


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International technology giant Google has launched new webpages detailing how much energy it uses, the amount of carbon dioxide it emits and the action it is taking to reduce its environmental impact.

The new pages on reveal that during 2010, Google’s global operations consumed more than 2,250 GWh of electricity, enough to power 680,000 UK homes, and created 1.46 million tonnes of CO2.

The company confirms, however, that its carbon footprint could have been twice the size were it not for the adoption of energy efficiency measures. Google has halved the amount of energy its data centres, which contain thousands of computer servers, need to operate. By accurately measuring power usage the firm has found ways to reduce energy use, including keeping data centres warm rather than using energy to cool them and by using less energy-intensive ways to cool servers when necessary, such as using sea water.

Its data centres are now 50% more efficient than its competitors, claims the site. Overall, it says, its servers use less energy a month per user than leaving a light on for three hours.

According to the company’s figures these efficiencies and economies of scale mean that using its cloud-based Gmail service, for example, can be almost 80 times more energy efficient than if a small business used an in-house email system.

Although the company offsets all of its carbon emissions, it lists the amount of carbon dioxide generated by using each of its services with a single Google search creating 0.2g of CO2, 10 minutes watching YouTube generates 1g of CO2 and using a Gmail account for a year amounts to 1.2kg of CO2. These, estimates, however, do not take into consideration the emissions generated by the end user and their equipment.

The website not only reveals the company’s overall carbon footprint, but includes a more detailed break down of its scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions as well as its biogenic emissions – those created by waste it sends to landfill.

Alongside investing in offsetting schemes to counter its carbon footprint, Google is a recognised supporter of renewable energy having invested more than $780 million in renewable generation and technology development. Figures revealed yesterday show that as well as generating 3GWh of electricity from its own solar photovoltaic installation at a site in California, Google purchased a quarter of its remaining supply from other renewable sources. The firm has pledged to up this to 35% by the end of 2012.

Despite all its efforts Google has confirmed its emissions continue to rise, due to increasing numbers of users. It has pledged to make more information available in future through its participation in the Carbon Disclosure Project.


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