Google Joins Other Tech Giants in Supporting Clean Power Plan

The tech giants say reducing carbon emissions and increasing focus on renewable energy sources is critical to the nation's future and good for the economy.

Green Power Plan

Google has joined Microsoft, Apple and Amazon in voicing support for the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan for reducing carbon emissions from U.S. power plants over the next several years.

The Supreme Court in February stayed implementation of the plan and wants the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Columbia Circuit to rule on the legal implications of the plan, which is being opposed by some two dozen states.

In an amicus brief filed with the appellate court this week, lawyers for the four technology giants said their position on the topic was based on their status as being among the most significant consumers of electricity in the country. In 2015, they noted, the 50 data centers owned between the four companies, consumed more than 10 million megawatt-hours of electricity and that consumption is only expected to grow.

Therefore, consuming power in a way that is environmentally friendly and sustainable is of critical importance, the four companies said. Each of companies has developed practices for reducing their carbon footprint by moving increasingly to renewable sources of energy, the brief noted.

For example, together the four technology firms purchased or generated on their own, over 6 million megawatt-hours in 2015. Each one has also committed to using 100 percent renewable energy for their data centers and operations over the long term.

"Delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms," the four tech firms warned in the brief while extolling the virtues of moving to a low-carbon economy.

The Clean Power Plan basically calls on U.S. power companies to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent compared to 2005 levels, by the end of 2030. It sets state-specific goals, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has claimed is based on the strategies that U.S. states are already using to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The states have some leeway in how they meet their mandated carbon reduction goals under the plan.

Two dozen states last year sued the government over the plan and asked the Court of Appeals to overturn the rule. Among other objections, the states have argued that the rule would hurt companies in the coal mining industry, raise prices for consumers and hurt the reliability of electric power supply. Dozens of utility companies and trade groups from the energy industry have also called for the plan to be scuttled.

The Supreme Court's order staying implementation of the plan comes even as the circuit court is still deciding on the merits of the complaints by the states and utility companies.

With their amicus brief, the four technology companies have joined a large group of organizations that want the plan to be implemented in expeditious fashion.

"We believe the CPP is an important step in the transition to a cleaner energy future," said Michael Terrell, principal, of Google's energy and infrastructure group in a blog post. "The message from our companies today is clear—we can meet the world's future energy challenges in a way that drives innovation and growth."

Google, like the other companies who filed the brief, has made significant investments in renewable energy technologies for its growing number of power hungry data centers around the world.

Last year alone, the company entered into contracts to purchase 842 megawatts of renewable energy over the next few years. In total, the company so far has committed to purchasing more than 2 gigawatts of renewable energy. Google says it has also spent another $2.5 billion in 22 other renewable energy projects for which it is not the sole consumer.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.