Google has been outspoken about its leadership in developing renewable energy sources for its electricity needs (see "Google's Power Play for Renewable Energy"). When Greenpeace released its report "How dirty is your data? A Look at the Energy Choices that Power Cloud Computing" last spring, it praised Google (along with IBM) for "the most comprehensive overall approach to reduce its carbon footprint to date." In the same report, however, Greenpeace also gave the company a failing grade for transparency concerning its energy consumption.
All that changed this month when Google added "The Big Picture" to its "Google Green" website. The company reveals candid details about its energy consumption as well as its plans for future efficiency and carbon footprint reduction. For example, the site shows that the company used about 2 billion kWh of electricity in 2010. That's about 0.05% of the total electricity used in the United States that year. It also shows that 25% of the power that Google used last year came from renewable energy sources. By 2012, the company plans to increase that to more than 35% of its total electrical use, nearly half of which will be purchased directly by Google from the energy producers.
The site also has some interesting figures about its services and consumer use. According to Google, if you calculate the average energy consumption required to meet the needs of the users of Google's services for a month, the average user consumes the amount of electricity required to light a 60 watt light bulb for three hours. The company's data centers use about half as much energy as most other data centers, according to the site; the majority of these savings come from more efficient energy use by the facilities, though some additional savings come from more efficient servers.
Perhaps Google's candor about energy consumption will help encourage other large enterprises to be more open about their energy policies and use. Companies have always valued the importance of contributing to their community, and now, being "green" is becoming an important attribute for a company's public image.