Google on track to hit 100% RE with efficiency, offsets - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Demand Management, Distributed Energy Resources, Energy Efficiency, GHG Emissions, Commercial, Sourcing Renewables  -  October 17, 2017

Google on track to hit 100% RE with efficiency, offsets

Google has updated its progress — in detail — toward a series of bold environmental initiatives, including plans to hit 100% renewable energy for its global operations by the end of this year, in its 2017 environmental report. 

The technology company, which announced late in 2016 that it would reach its 100% renewable energy target this year, says it is on still track for achieving that milestone and credits its sharp focus on energy efficiency, both within its data centers and office spaces. On top of its renewable energy goal, Google also aims to either maintain or improve quarterly power usage effectiveness at each of its data centers year over year and has specific targets to reduce emissions related to its offices and workforce. 

All of these goals roll out to Google's commitment to carbon neutrality, as outlined in its new report

In 2007, Google committed to being carbon neutral, and we’ve met this goal every year since then. We reach carbon neutrality via three steps. First, we work to reduce our total energy consumption by pursuing aggressive energy-efficiency initiatives. Second, we purchase significant amounts of renewable energy. Third, we buy carbon offsets for any remaining emissions we haven’t yet eliminated.

Though the company said its need to purchase carbon offsets to meet its goal has declined over time, now when it does, it adheres to strict criteria: offsets must be additional, high-quality and third-party verified. One example outlined in its report is its investment in a new carbon offset project at an Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority landfill in upstate New York that has eliminated half a million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent since its completion

Within Google's environmental approach to office space is a goal to reduce single-occupancy vehicle commuting to 45% and provide electric vehicle charging stations for 10% of parking spaces at its Bay Area headquarters. Overall, 9.3 million square feet of Google's office facilities have achieved LEED certification, with 34% at Platinum and 54% at Gold, according to its report. As a shining example of office design innovation, Google points to its new Chicago office, known as Fulton Market, which marked the first time the company explored using multiple green rating systems, including  LEED v4, Living Building Challenge Certification and WELL Building Certification. 

The Chicago building, built in 1923, was originally a cold storage warehouse; Google says it has since been "transformed into a warm, inviting workplace" that marks the largest LBC-certified project in the world. 

"When the project began, our team set ambitious goals for improving Googler wellness, happiness, and productivity through the use of design factors like lighting, materials, and biophilia (connecting people to nature)," the company says in its report. "Pursuing these certifications led us to focus on four key initiatives: 100% Red List–free materials, circadian rhythm lighting design, sustainably sourced wood, and biophilic design."

On the topic of energy, Google's approach to the office's design meant "aligning with the body’s natural circadian rhythm through careful integration of daylight and electric light," in an effort to improve productivity and stress levels. 

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