In order to meet its renewable energy targets, Google has recently promised millions of dollars for clean-energy-supported manufacturing, signed deals on a record-breaking renewables portfolio, and even joined a couple of regional transmission organizations.
On Wednesday, the company announced it would push its renewables capabilities further by partnering its Cloud service with independent power producer AES Corporation on a “10-year strategic alliance,” which the companies said would use tools like artificial intelligence and data analytics to modernize the electric grid and support new renewables projects in the U.S. and Latin America.
The two companies are already working together on two projects in Chile; one is a 100-megawatt wind farm, and the other is an 80-megawatt solar installation that will power a Google data center. Those projects are part of the 1.6 gigawatts' worth of new capacity that Google announced in September.
Andrés Gluski, president and CEO of AES, said the new partnership would combine the “capabilities, footprint and experience of both companies.” The announcement sketched out the goals of the collaboration in broad terms, claiming that the use of cloud technology will enable more widespread use of clean energy.
The alliance did specify it will focus specifically on Uplight, a company created in July when AES merged Simple Energy and Tendril, and which provides “customer-facing solutions" for utilities. On Wednesday, Google and AES said Uplight will use Google Cloud technology “to enhance its end-to-end energy action system, to increase customer satisfaction and reduce carbon emissions.”
AES’ goals to transition to “an energy company of the future” — announced in 2017 — and its more recent efforts to reduce the carbon intensity of its portfolio 70 percent by 2030 align with Google’s plans to meet all of its electricity demand with renewables. The tech giant first met its 100 percent renewable energy target in 2017 and continues to buy more clean power to cover its expanding footprint. In its 2018 sustainability report, AES detailed the signing of 1,946 megawatts' worth of long-term renewables power-purchase agreements and said it plans to sign deals for an additional 2 to 3 gigawatts each year through 2022.
Of the company’s projects under construction as of the end of 2018, totaling more than 4 gigawatts, all were renewables or storage aside from a 1,320-megawatt coal plant in India and a 1,284-megawatt gas plant combined with energy storage in California (although those plants were the largest under construction).
Google also continues to move forward with clean energy commitments as its employees demand more aggressive climate action. This week, more than 1,000 of the company’s employees signed a letter calling for Google to promise zero emissions by 2030, stop funding any climate-denying “or -delaying” groups, end any contracts tied to fossil fuels, and deny engagement with any entities “enabling the incarceration, surveillance, displacement, or oppression of refugees or frontline communities,” populations that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. Some Google employees also participated in recent walkout climate strikes.
Also this week, Google announced it would select between eight and 10 climate “social impact” startups in Europe, Africa and the Middle East to participate in a six-month accelerator program. The company said startups will be selected based on the sustainable development goals laid out by the United Nations, which focus on topics such as climate, poverty and inequality. The tech company will offer mentoring and help the participating firms secure access to funders.