Tech Companies Push to Solar and Wind, Hurting Coal

Each time you purchase something through Amazon, or open a photo on cloud, stream a movie or work on a Google doc, you are likely pulling electricity that has been generated by a Virginia solar farm or Texas wind turbine.

Since 2008, the use of renewable energy has increased to 18% from 9% of the entire energy mix in the U.S., says the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

Much of that shift comes from large technology firms’ rapid buildout of their cloud storage centers as well as a push to better their public image through promising to run their operations on energy sources such as solar and wind.

Instead of losing these customers that have large bankrolls, the power companies in the U.S. are changing their policies and entering into deals that meet the heightened demand for use of renewable energy, and in certain cases shifting from supplying traditional electricity through use of natural gas.

This has even started to take place in states known for coal mining such as in West Virginia.

The Google Energy Policy chief Michael Terrell says that Google and other tech firms have that ability to shape today’s market.

In 2017, the four top corporate renewable energy users worldwide were Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft. Google announced in April that as of last year, all of its facilities as well as data center operating 100% on renewable energy.

Insisting that power companies offer solar and wind-sourced power, is spreading amongst other sectors – GM, Budweiser and Walmart – all have future goals of running more global business of theirs through using renewable energy.

This is not good news from a coal industry that is struggling. Producers of coal have seen their power generation share in the U.S. drop since 2008, even while President Donald Trump’s administration promised to roll back what it calls hostile environmental regulations.

Coal industry members have said they know that the government is at least not discouraging production, and it only needs to worry about the marketplace.

The problem for coal is the amount of the marketplace that is demanding renewable energy is growing.

One president of a power company said that no law exists at the state or federal level that says this must be done, but there are company boards of directors that say they want to set a goal for their carbon footprint for the company.

That has in turn increased the number of companies converting to solar and wind power.