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Google buys stake in Taiwan solar firm to offset regional emissions

Google has purchased a stake in a BlackRock-backed solar firm amid cries that the AI boom is worsening Big Tech's carbon footprint.
Olivia Peluso
Google buys stake in Taiwan solar firm to offset regional emissions
Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Google on Monday said it had purchased a stake in Taiwan’s New Green Power to develop a 1 gigawatt (GW) pipeline of new solar capacity in Taiwan.

New Green Power, which is owned by a fund managed by BlackRock’s Climate Infrastructure business, is one of the leading solar developers in Taiwan. Google will make an unspecified capital investment “to facilitate the buildout of its large-scale solar pipeline,” though it is yet to be approved by regulators. 

The investment will boost clean energy on Taiwan’s local grid and help Google reach its goal of achieving net-zero emissions across its value chain and all operations by 2030, the company said. 

It comes as Big Tech companies are being pushed by investors to cut emissions linked to their operations and supply chains. Growing demand for data-processing capacity for artificial intelligence and ever-increasing consumer demand for cloud storage has made it difficult for companies to decarbonise. 

Google said the new solar capacity will help power its data centers and cloud region in Taiwan. Some of the energy capacity will also be offered to Google’s chip suppliers in the region. 

“We expect to procure up to 300 [megawatts] of solar energy from this pipeline through power purchase agreements (PPAs) and the associated energy attribute certificates (Taiwan Renewable Energy Certificates or T-RECS) to help meet electricity demand from our data center campus, cloud region and office operations in Taiwan,” Amanda Peterson Corio, global head of data center energy at Google, said in a blog post Monday.

Google was the first corporate buyer to sign a PPA in Taiwan’s renewable energy market. 

Taiwan produces some 60% of the world’s semiconductor chips and accounts for an even larger share of advanced AI processors. Chip fabrication is among the most energy-intensive processes, as chip manufacturing is long and complex. However, some 97% of Taiwan’s energy is generated from non-renewable sources, including natural gas and coal, according to data from the country’s Energy Administration.

“A significant share of our Scope 3 footprint can be traced back to the electricity grids that power our suppliers and users, which is why broad decarbonization — and partnerships like this — continue to be core to our net-zero goal,” said Corio.

Renewable energy development in Asia-Pacific is growing, an April Boston Consulting Group report found. By 2030, renewables are predicted to account for 30% to 50% of the energy mix in most of the region’s markets, the report said, though “significant investment” is needed.