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Renewable racing: Who is behind Alphabet in the battle to 100 per cent?

Google parent company Alphabet claims to have purchased enough renewable energy to power its global operations for an entire year.

Last year the company was reportedly powered by around 7 terawatt-hours of electricity, and sourced even more than that. Selling off the power it didn’t need to local markets where it was unable to consume the excess energy.

Its purchase of 3 gigawatts of clean energy makes it the largest corporate buyer of renewable power and it claims to have invested $3bn in wind and solar farms around the world.

Energy from electricity-powered data centres has been growing alongside demand for data. It also offers clear renewable benefits.

“Our electric consumption is the largest part of our carbon footprint,” Alphabet head of energy strategy Neha Palmer told Bloomberg. “The renewable-energy program we have is the best way to mitigate our carbon impact.”

Companies signed off on a record 5.4 gigawatts of clean energy last year according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, enough to displace at least ten coal-fired plants.

It’s because of the growth in demand for data centres that the top five buyers of clean energy among corporates are tech firms. Partly motivated by sustainability goals, it is often the case that wind and solar power purchasing are the cheapest on the market.

They are also liable for tax subsidies and go down well with customers, according to analysts HIS Markit.

Alphabet has claimed victory against its tech rivals for renewable dominance, but other firms are also looking to replicate its commitment to renewable energy.

Amazon finishes in second place

Jeff Bezos’ announcement last October that Amazon would launch a new 253 megawatt wind farm in Texas was not enough to bring it close to Alphabet’s totals as it finished the year in second place.

This only serves to highlight the rift between Alphabet and other companies.

Amazon purchased a total of 1.2 gigawatts, less than half the total of first placed Alphabet. The company pledged to make 50 per cent of its business renewable-powered by 2017 as well as a “long term commitment” to making 100 per cent of its data centres clean energy dependent.

Amazon Web Services- its cloud computing business- is one of the company’s most crucial money makers and it is growing rapidly.

Fourth quarter revenues of $5.1bn beat expectations and it continues to invest in growing the business globally. Cloud computing is a competitive field where prices are being driven lower.

Amazon has three Carbon neutral regions globally. It will need to do a lot more than this if it to catch up with Alphabet.

Microsoft clouds the picture

Announcing last month they sign off its renewable deals in India, Singapore and Virginia, Microsoft is listed at third placed. Its purchase total also rounds to 1.2 gigawatts on the year, but it falls just below Amazon according to the Bloomberg data.

The deal underscores Microsoft’s global commitment to clean energy. The company has exceeded its target of powering 50 per cent of its data centre output with renewable energy and will look to reach 60 per cent by 2020.

Google, Microsoft and Amazon are the three biggest players in the cloud computing market that’s combined revenue is predicted to jump from $260bn last year to $410bn by 2020, according to Gartner. The industry’s reliance on data centres means they will continue to be big purchasers of clean energy,

It is the rate and pace at which they can match this growth with sustainable conversion that will ensure Amazon and Microsoft follow the path of Alphabet in future.