Podcast    ·    Episode #40

Carbon and the cloud


Guest

Maud Texier, head of energy development, Google


Timestamps


Links


Transcript

At the end of the day, whether I’m working for Google Cloud or you’re working for MIT, we’re all consumers of someone else, and so, as a customer, you have a voice, and I would say, go voice your demands. You have to demand about those data. You have to demand about what is the standard of sustainability that you want to see your product at.

JS: Today, we’re talking to Maud Texier, head of energy development at Google. Maud leads a team responsible for developing and scaling 24/7 carbon-free energy for Google’s data centers worldwide. Before Google, Maud was head of industrial energy products at Tesla, and earned an MS of engineering in energy and power systems in Paris and is now based in San Francisco.

Maud, it’s such a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much for being with us.

Maud Texier: Thank you for hosting me.

JS: First, before we get started, can you just tell everyone who you are and what you do?

MT: Yes, absolutely. You described it very well already, but I’m head of energy development at Google. I work specifically on our data centers, where I’m working on reaching 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030.

JS: What got you interested in energy?

MT: It kind of came over time, but at the heart, I was really more like a scientist. I really love everything around mathematics and physics. Through engineering studies, I discovered more closely the energy field and electricity. It was a very complex field with a lot of, not just complexity, but also space for innovation. I just got more and more into power systems and electricity and energy markets. Back then, clean energy was just starting. I’ve been looking to really expand my career and I’ve been lucky to spend most of my career today in clean electricity.

JS: Talk to us about what it means for Google to have this Google Cloud Platform. You work at Google Cloud, which is kind of separate but still part of Google, of course. What does that mean, what is it, how does it work?

MT: You can think about Google Cloud being a Google product. Like today, you have Android, you have Google Search, Google Maps. Cloud is just another product where we are providing computing services to hundreds and thousands of customers around the world. The way we’re doing that is we are delivering these cloud services and cloud platforms, where our customers are going to build and develop and then dispatch all their applications globally. Today, we are covering over I think 200 regions and countries to support our customers.

JS: What I find really fascinating about what you do is that you address this part of our carbon footprint that isn’t talked about a whole lot. We think about the carbon footprint of our transportation, of our houses, of the things that we see and do every day, but we don’t often think about the carbon footprint of the cloud, like you said. Can you just describe, what is a data center? What is the cloud? What is it, really, physically, at the end of the day?

MT: You can think about data centers really being those buildings with servers inside, where we are going to process every request or every time you are searching on the internet or you’re trying to compute something in the cloud, there’s going to be a request that is going to be processed by those servers in the data centers. In that sense, the data centers are going to consume energy every time you need your computer or you need the internet. This is really what is going to be at the heart of the carbon footprint.

Overall, I like to think about data centers as almost like the power plant of the internet coming from the electricity grid. That’s a comparison that I like.

When you think about the carbon footprint of those data centers, it’s about, how much energy do you consume? How do you consume that energy? How do you control it? Then, finally, where and how is this energy generated in the first place? It’s each of those three steps that is going to drive your carbon footprint. That’s why at Google, for a long time, we’ve been looking at designing and building our data centers now for several decades. One of the core focuses of our design was around energy efficiency, as an example, and trying to consume the least amount of energy possible. Then looking at how we can control this energy at best to really try to use this energy and make the most of it. Then, finally, how is this energy produced in the first place? That’s really what takes us to 24/7 carbon-free energy in general.

JS: How much energy does the average person use in a day or making a Google search? What is the carbon footprint of your average person or of the internet in general? Just to compare it to the kinds of things that we hear about more often, like transportation.

MT: It’s really hard to say with one specific number. It’s similar when you ask about, what is the carbon footprint of an average person? If this person lives in the U.S. or if this person lives in another country, it’s going to be an order of magnitude different. If this person flies around the world versus actually they just bike all year long, it’s going to be very different. Similarly, your carbon footprint of internet can vary a lot, depending on where your research is processed.

Today, we have data centers in very clean grids and we have data centers in grids that still need efforts in decarbonization. It’s a very more nuanced perspective and it really depends on where the processes and the requests are made in the first place.

JS: When I do a Google search, my search is being funneled to the closest data center near me?

MT: It’s more complicated than that, because it depends on how busy is the data center near you. But yes, there’s a lot of software engineers building those optimization functions so that they can really send your query in a way that is the most efficient for you and you get the better quality, but also in a way that is the most efficient from an infrastructure perspective.

It’s really similar to a power grid. You’re going to have cities where you have a lot of demand and you’re going to have places where you have a lot of supplies and in between you have those transmission lines. Similarly, for the Google data centers, and the data centers in general, you have everything with the fiber lines. In that sense, it’s really a mix between the power flows and the supply and the demand. We’ll do our best to deliver the quality, but it depends on the real time conditions. It’s very hard for us to say exactly where your query is going to be run.

JS: I see. So location plays a big part. You talked about how you’ve been building these data centers now for decades. How does clean energy play a part in data centers? How does that impact your decision about where you build the data centers and what kind of energy you use? What, at the end of the day, is causing that carbon footprint or not causing a carbon footprint if it’s efficient?

MT: As I mentioned, the very first step is trying to consume the least amount of energy. As I love to say, the most carbon-free energy is the one that you really don’t need at the end of the day. That’s why we’ve been really focused on this energy efficiency in the industry. We’re using this metric called PUE [power usage effectiveness], which really measures how much energy you need for a specific request. The closer you get to one, the less losses you have in the process, basically.

Google data centers, on average, we’ve seen across the industry, is generally consuming 50% less electricity than other data centers. That was really a strong pillar for us in terms of sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint. As we reach that point, now we’ve been turning our attention to how this electricity is produced and generated in the first place. That’s why we started looking at where our data centers are and what is the grid and the electricity in those regions.

Ten years ago, we realized that, actually, a lot of those regions didn’t have a lot of renewable energy on their grids and that the carbon intensity of this electricity was pretty high. That’s why we started in 2010 signing our first power purchase agreement around clean energy and Google started buying clean energy, as we say, so it was a lot of solar and wind. That really helped us achieve in 2017 what we call 100% renewable energy target, which means that since 2017, every year, Google is buying as much clean electricity as we’ve been consuming within the data centers and the other center of operations globally and annually.

When you think about it, you still have this component that I was referring to earlier, which is, when you’re looking at it from a volumetric perspective and annual perspective, it still doesn’t represent what is happening on the grid when you’re actually doing this Google search and when we’re actually processing that into our data centers.

That’s what brought us to this concept of 24/7 carbon-free energy. Which is that moving forward, we want to be even more granular and look at when this consumption is happening on the data centers, what is happening on the grid during that same time and what kind of clean electricity is required at that time and in that grid for us to be able to make sure that we have clean electricity available for data center at that time?

This is really the mandate for 24/7 carbon-free energy. That moving forward everywhere where we have data centers, for every hour where we’re going to be operating, we will have clean electricity supplying for the data centers.

JS: What’s involved in that?

MT: When we started looking at this 24/7 concept, we’re coming from a history of renewable energy purchase. Today, our portfolio is over five gigawatts of wind and solar across the world. But we started modeling what it would take for us to get to 24/7 carbon-free energy. Through that modeling, we realized that renewable energy has a large share, in general, in the mix that we’re envisioning to achieve 24/7 carbon-free energy. But you still have hours where the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining. In those few hours, you don’t have a lot of solutions available today.

That’s why we also shifted our attention and actually the name of our initiatives from “renewable energy” to “carbon-free energy” because we realized that we need a bit of a broader toolbox to achieve this grid decarbonization. Today, we are looking beyond just wind and solar. We’re looking at, what type of energy storage do we need to pair with those renewable energy assets? What type of other new generation can we find? Because we still have regions where wind and solar are just limited resources by nature. In those regions, we’re going to need to find alternatives to generate clean energy in the first place.

An example we did recently is geothermal. We have been looking at advanced geothermal. Earlier this year, we actually announced publicly our partnership with this company, Fervo, who is going to develop the first commercial-scale pilot in Nevada to supply carbon-free electricity for our data center.

That’s a good example on how we can find new ways and alternatives to generate carbon-free electricity in the first place and really, really present to us many, many more options than what we’ve seen today.

JS: What are the most efficient regions?

MT: The most efficient regions today can be coming in two flavors. The first one is the regions where the grid is very clean in the first place. For instance, today we have our data center in Finland which has a very high carbon-free energy percentage, and it’s actually thanks to those two attributes. One, the Finnish grid in the first place is very clean and making a lot of strides on grid decarbonization. We are benefiting from that. But second, Google also has been privately buying clean energy, especially from wind that is very predominant in Finland. With those two attributes, we’ve been able to reach a high carbon-free energy percentage.

The other clean region I would mention is Denmark, so not so far from Finland. Also in the U.S., we have a few regions—around Oklahoma, for instance—where we have a very high carbon-free energy percentage, thanks to the investment that Google did over the past decade in wind farms and other renewable energy projects in that region as well.

JS: You mentioned solar and wind. Are those the top energy sources or are there others that you’re looking at as well?

MT: For the 24/7 carbon-free energy program, we’re looking at new technologies alongside I would say two pillars or two workstreams. One is energy storage. How can we actually store the energy from those renewable energy resources when we have an excess or surplus of solar, of wind, and re-utilize this electricity a little bit later in the day or even later in the month or the year? So really looking at batteries. There’s been a lot of strong development around energy storage, but we also foresee the need for new technologies and new costs down in that direction. Especially in the space that we call the “long-duration energy storage” industry.

On the other side, as I mentioned earlier, we have places where those renewable, or more traditional renewable, energy are just generally limited. By definition, this means that we need to find new technologies to generate clean energy in the first place. We’ve been looking at geothermal but that’s one of the examples that we are considering. In general, we are also going to explore things like advanced nuclear, carbon capture, everything that can provide to the grid a constant source of carbon-free electricity beyond wind and solar.

JS: How do carbon offsets figure into this?

MT: We are not doing carbon offsets. We’re looking at it, I would say, more from a physical perspective. That’s why we’re really looking at, what is our energy consumption in almost real-time? It’s not real-time at the grid level but an hour is already pretty real-time. Every hour we’re going to look at, what are the conditions in the grid where we are consuming? And trying to deploy clean electricity, clean resources, to really being able to produce electricity within that grid. It’s really not about the carbon offsets. It’s really about finding the energy supply directly so that we can meet our consumption needs on a real-time basis.

JS: What are some of the challenges that you’re facing right now with this 24/7 initiative?

MT: We describe our 24/7 target as a wind shot for 2030. Because today, it would kind of be equivalent to ensuring that grids are fully operating all the time on clean electricity, which is not really the case. That’s why we really wanted to put this target over the next 10 years to also force the movement in that direction. Because it’s not just about Google building the portfolio of technologies and filling the gaps for every hour that we need. It’s also for us to become a proof of concept and to ask the questions about, what is it going to take to be able to achieve this full grid decarbonization that we’re going to need to achieve one way or the other with climate change? And we had a lot of news on that this week.

For us, it’s really about how do we find the solutions for ourselves? But also, how those solutions are being made available in a more scalable way, so that it can be deployed at a gigawatt scale on the grids where we’re operating, and more consumers can also have access to this clean energy down the line.

JS: You mentioned the news this week and I did want to bring that up. There’s a group in the United Nations called the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and they’re responsible for providing governments with assessments about the science of climate change. This week, they released their Sixth Assessment Report, which has been making headlines. It describes how, among other things, the last decade was hotter than any period in the last 125,000 years and possible futures depending on how dramatically emissions are cut from here going forward. It also says that even the severest of cuts are unlikely to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. So I did want to ask you about that and how are you responding to it? How are you thinking about it? This is, perhaps, not news to you, or to really many of us who follow energy and climate change. Will that report impact any of your practices going forward?

MT: Yes, well, as you say, correctly unfortunately, it’s not really brand-new news. I think everybody who has been working in that space has been following those numbers closely over the past decade and more now. There was really no big news coming out of this week, but it was kind of a stern reminder that we only have so much time left to really make a dramatic change in our trajectory. It was a bit of a gloomy week, I have to say, for a lot of us working on climate change. But on the other side, I do think it’s a good reminder that this is why we’re putting those ambitious goals. It’s not about, are we going to make it? We have to do our best to put all our efforts over the next decade to really try to make the most impact that we can at this point.

On that front, I think what we’re trying to do here is really trying to raise this awareness around electricity and the need to truly decarbonize the grids. We’ve been doing a lot of great things in general in the industry over the past 10 and 20 years. When I started in my career, solar was very expensive. It was kind of a luxury thing to look at. Now, I was looking yesterday at the growth of renewable energy capacity globally across the last two decades now and it’s been an exponential growth. There’s a lot of optimism and I think there’s a lot of innovations. I think it’s going to be a very exciting decade. Because on one side, we have this very, honestly, stressful challenge with this deadline that we have to meet. But on the other side, there’s been already this energy in innovating and pushing together that actually felt fairly optimistic.

I hope that this reminder that we had this week will bring even more people to the table, even more people in this industry, in this research and academics. We really need all hands on deck right now.

JS: Are you seeing people become more aware of their cloud carbon footprint, either at an individual level or at an organizational level?

MT: I’ve seen a major shift, actually, in awareness around sustainability in carbon footprint. This is becoming top of mind for most of our cloud customers today. We have studies showing that sustainability in carbon footprint is even exceeding pricing consideration. Which I think is a strong signal because, once again, in the past, sustainability was more a nice to have, but at the end of the day, people were not necessarily ready to pay for premium or pay for a higher cost.

Today, sustainability really comes before that. I think it’s a very strong market signal, for us as Google Cloud and also the rest of the industry, that actually we have to do more and we have to service our customers for what matters to them. In our approach around sustainability and renewable energy and today with our 24/7 carbon-free energy program, we try to keep this principle of what we call transparency. Really trying to make our programs, our results, and our data actionable for our customers as well.

An example that I think was very nice results of the 24/7 approach is, now that we have this better understanding for hourly consumption and we can understand where our servers are running, what time they’re running, to do what, it’s also pretty easy for us to be able to give that feedback to our customers and tell them in which regions they should operate, for instance.

We developed a tool earlier this year as a first step that we call the Region Picker. That tool, for instance, could help our cloud customer if they know they want to run their cloud compute in Europe. We will tell them which regions are going to be the most sustainable alongside with other traditional metrics. We’re really trying to, I would say, integrate sustainability metrics as part of the decision process so that our customers can really adjust what they want to do and modulate their results depending on their inspirations around sustainability and carbon footprint.

JS: About five years ago, the Energy Initiative, we moved our web hosting to Google Cloud and the primary consideration was sustainability. Because, price-wise, we found it to be pretty comparable to the other services out there. I want to thank you for, five years ago, providing such a great platform. It was actually pretty challenging to find web hosting that was at least transparently sustainable on a large scale. And the Region Picker is a really great tool, I was super impressed when I saw that. How else are you thinking about bringing that transparency to consumer level, so individuals or small organizations can really see and get their minds around the kind of impact they’re having?

MT: As you mentioned, I think it’s all about transparency. I think today there’s a lot of efforts around sustainability. But it’s really hard as a consumer to understand, what are the actions? And even more, what is the impact? That’s why we’ve been putting in place this Region Picker. But we’re also trying to communicate back to our customers how our programs are impacting their carbon footprint.

For instance, you mentioned that your team picked Google Cloud a few years ago. We’ve been able to leverage the results of our past 20 years of work on the sustainability world. We’ve been carbon-neutral since 2007. As I mentioned earlier, now we’ve been 100% renewable energy much since 2010. We’re really building up on this heritage and that work to try to go a little bit further.

Today, in the sense of how we’re helping consumers, on one side, it’s making sure that we give this transparency through our services, as I mentioned earlier regarding the Cloud carbon footprint and the Cloud Region Picker. But it’s also making sure that how we’re doing sustainability and how we’re going to pursue 24/7 carbon-free energy is made in a way that we can make clean energy more accessible to everybody across the board.

For instance, what we are doing for the 24/7 carbon-free energy program, it’s not just about purchasing this electricity directly. It’s working with stakeholders from the industry so that we can develop the solutions for consumers and other types of energy buyers to have access to 24/7 clean energy.

Maybe I can use two examples. One is around what we call transactions. We’ve been working with our partner, AES, to try to develop a new way to supply 24/7 carbon-free energy in our data center in Virginia. AES has been building for us a contract that really encompasses everything. Not just the electricity supply to our buildings but also making sure that we have 24/7 carbon-free energy coming from their supply. Now it’s kind of a turnkey solution. You don’t need to be Google, basically, to build your own portfolio. You can go to those stakeholders, to those partners, who will be able to use those contracts for you. That really simplifies the approach to clean energy procurement.

The second aspect I would say is around policy. We’re doing a lot of work on policy around grid decarbonization and what I call grid modernization. A large issue today is that clean energy is still not really accessible to a lot of consumers. As a large energy buyer, we’re lucky. We have more leverage. It’s easier for us to go and find the right projects. But a lot of consumers don’t have this direct access yet, so we are really trying push and advocate for those markets to adapt and really open up options for consumers to have access to clean energy.

A market we opened a few years ago was in Taiwan where we have a data center. Once we started exploring renewable energy, we realized that, we could not, as a large energy buyer in that country, we could not sign a contract directly to find clean electricity. The team has spent a few years with other partners in the industry to really open up. Today, the Taiwan market is pretty active in terms of clean energy procurement and all types of commercial and industrial energy consumers can actually procure their own clean energy.

JS: For people who are just not thinking about their cloud carbon footprint, their digital carbon footprint, maybe they don’t have a need for a data center, they don’t have a website, but what are the other aspects of someone’s digital carbon footprint that they could be thinking about and how could they maybe make better choices or just look into ways to improve that?

MT: In general, as soon as you do a Google search, you’re using a data center. Even if nobody sees it, all data centers are in the lives of everybody. I would say to those consumers today, we’re doing our best to minimize that impact in their daily life. That’s why we’re already making sure that those data centers are carbon-neutral and then renewable energy and now moving forward supply with clean electricity 24/7 so that it’s a service that we can deliver to them and they don’t have to really think about it.

Across, also, I would say, in general, in the overall carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emission that we see in the world today, I would say the data centers, and therefore this use of internet, is still a fairly small portion of the electricity consumption globally.

Globally, this electricity consumption is actually 1%. That means that as a consumer, I would recommend people to also look at what is outside, what is happening in their daily life, that generally has a high carbon footprint and whether it can have a direct action. In terms of internet carbon footprint, Google is trying their best to minimize that effort already.

JS: I’m thinking about people who are using other services. We use dozens, maybe hundreds, of digital services every day that might not be using a data center running on clean energy. Are data centers that are currently using fossil fuels, are they tied to using fossil fuels? Or is it possible for any company to switch up their energy source to something more clean?

MT: In general, data centers are tied to the local grid. It really depends on what is the mix of the grid in the U.S. in California versus New York, or in France, for instance. I would say, at a high level, all those data centers are subjected to what are the conditions of the grid. However, today, we are developing more and more standards and coalitions as data centers and in general, large energy buyers, to really create this access to clean electricity.

You will find a lot of large coalitions globally. One is the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, where you have data center companies but also other types of companies, like Facebook and Walmart and any really large energy buyer, who are working together for one, making sure that the grids where they consume electricity are getting cleaner in the first place, but also two, to really pair up together and try to buy those large amounts of renewable energy that otherwise would not be deployed on the grids where they are operating.

An example is in Georgia in 2018, actually, we partnered with a lot of those large consumers, like Johnson & Johnson and Walmart and Target, so that as an industrial coalition, we could convince the state of Georgia to let us procure renewable energy. Through that, we’ve been able to work with the state utility Georgia Power so that we could deploy renewable energy to meet our demand, and at the same time, those large energy buyers would cover the cost but still help deploy those renewable energy systems on the grids in Georgia.

It’s really with this, I would say, approach of partnership and working together that we can move to partner and accelerate the development of clean energy. It’s really not just about Google. A lot of companies right now are really embracing this approach to carbon-free electricity in general.

JS: Another component of this local aspect of the data centers, where they’re physically located, is the environmental impact of the location and the particular kind of energy uses. For example, I think in Brazil they use a lot of hydropower, which obviously has a large water footprint. How do you, or do you, think about the environmental impact of the specific energy sources in those physical locations?

MT: It’s a great question. When we started looking at our 24/7 carbon-free energy program, the very first difficulty for us to even start was to understand what was the composition of those grids on an hourly basis. We realized that most of the time, the data were not readily available. Actually, we spent a lot of time working with our partners and local utilities also to get those data, to get this understanding on what are the energy resources that are producing electricity when we’re consuming it.

That really yielded at a lot of interesting information for us. You mentioned Brazil where they have a lot of hydroelectricity. This is pretty carbon-free or low-carbon impact in general. But then we looked at our portfolio in Asia. For instance, today, if you look at our data center in Singapore, we realized that this grid did not have a lot of alternatives and they’re still running a lot on fossil fuel emitting power plans.

This shift in how we are looking at our portfolio on a more local and time granular basis, helped us reprioritize a little bit how and where we’re going to invest in clean energy technologies. That really yielded a different ranking from what we’ve seen in the past. That’s why today, for instance, we have a lot of the Nordic countries that are pretty high in our ranking, while our data centers in Asia are lagging a little bit, or also in the Southeast in the U.S., renewable energy is not as deployed as in other states in the U.S. That really helps us force our attention from a policy and a deployment perspective in those states.

JS: Is there any benefit to having more data centers in the United States? Or is it pretty much the same no matter where they are globally?

MT: I think it really depends. On one side, it’s mainly going to be driven by where the customers are. When you are Googling something on search, you want to make sure that your search results are coming pretty quickly and not wait a minute or two minutes. It’s really this aspect of, where are the customers? So that we can service them with the best quality. To do that, we have to be close to them to some extent.

That’s why, initially, I would say, if you look at the very first data centers that we’ve built, there were in the U.S. and then we expanded to Europe. But today a large growing demand is actually more in Asia or Latin America. We are really supporting, I would say, the next developing economies.

JS: Interesting. I’m just curious a little bit more about you and what you do on a day-to-day basis. What excites you most about what you’re doing right now? What interests you the most?

MT: I would say that the impact is really what is driving me. The second part of that is, we call our 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 target a moonshot. I think that’s what really excites me every morning is we have to press forward but we’re not really sure exactly how we get all the way there. This is really the space for innovations and thinking out of the box type of opportunity that we have right now.

The way we formed the program forces us to look at everything. On one morning, we may be looking at where and how we should buy more wind and solar in which grids, and then around lunch, we’ll look at how we can optimize or load electricity consumption at the data centers to really match, for instance, the solar that is on the grid. Then after that, we’re going to need to understand how hydrogen and carbon capture can fit into our portfolio.

It’s really an all of the above and I think it’s really having to understand how those pieces come together that is really interesting. It’s less about going deep on one specific aspect as we have this massive puzzle, we have those 2,000 pieces available, and now we need to take them one by one and really understand how they fit together in the next 10 years.

The other aspect for that is, I think, pretty exciting about the 24/7 program, is everything around data and innovation. As I mentioned earlier, the energy space is still transitioning to this phase of data and digitalization. Once we realized that our program had to shift from monthly annual reporting to hourly reporting, it created a brand new workstream for us and we have to modernize the way we’re getting data. We have to make sure that we’re actually getting hourly production data, and how do we mix and match those hundreds of thousands of data together? I think it’s a very exciting, challenging space and there’s a lot of great tools that are being built there as well. There’s a lot of technical components that remain on that side.

JS: It sounds like data is one of the major challenges right now then. Are you building these kinds of tools in-house? Are you’re working with partners? Is it a mix?

MT: It’s a mix. When we started the program, we realized that, actually, there was no real tool available and so we had to develop quite a few tools ourselves. Then we found partners also to help us get the data from sources that we did not have access to.

An example is, I mentioned earlier, one of the big barriers for us at the beginning was to understand what was the mix of the electricity from the grid on an hourly basis. We work with a few partners, like Tomorrow, who is a Danish company, and they aggregate a lot of those datas from the grid globally. Really, building those tools has been interesting and then the next step of that is we realized that the rest of the industry had to change also.

An example, for instance, is how you are tracking the actual production of clean energy. In the U.S. today you have a certificate, which are called Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs, that you might be familiar with. We realized that those RECs certificates, those papers, are generally tracking megawatt hours on a monthly basis.

Now, we had this whole discrepancy between an hourly data and the actual certification that was not representative of 24/7 hourly efforts. We’ve been working, for instance, with different companies, partner companies, to develop those tools, to develop the standards and the protocols to ship those certificates from a monthly basis to an hourly basis. It’s really beyond just the data innovation themselves. It’s also, how did you adapt the standards, the protocols, globally and from a policy perspective, to this more granular point of view?

JS: Those kinds of things are managed by multiple agencies. It’s not like there’s one central governing body, right, that manages that? You have to look in many different places.

MT: Yes. Right now, for instance, for the Renewable Energy Certificates, depending on the country where you are, it’s going to be different governing bodies and also different companies providing those certificates and those tools. We have to walk across all those markets.

The good thing, though, I would say, is similar to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance that is really putting together a lot of corporates and energy buyers to talk about renewable energy. We’re seeing similar initiatives around those type of issues around certificates. Today, you have a few coalitions building up internationally to have the discussions to create those workstreams with all the right stakeholders. We really think that it’s by putting everybody at the table that we’re going to be about to move faster. We’re really supportive of those initiatives.

JS: What’s something you think most people don’t know about the cloud or their carbon footprint that you think would be important?

MT: I would say, as a consumer, even for myself, it’s hard to know about my own carbon footprint. I would encourage everybody to look for the information but also to ask from their suppliers for this information. That’s really what is helping us from the cloud side is, it’s not just about selling cloud services to our customers. It’s really about partnering with them, understanding what are their questions, what are their needs, and then delivering the tools.

The Region Picker is an example for instance, for us, in not just delivering the data, but really delivering what I call actionable data for them to make the decisions. It’s really a strong signal as a supplier to receive that demand. At the end of the day, whether I’m working for Google Cloud or you’re working for MIT, we’re all consumers of someone else, and so, as a customer, you have a voice, and I would say, go voice your demands. You have to demand about those data. You have to demand about what is the standard of sustainability that you want to see your product at. It’s only this demand that is going to drive a strong response from the suppliers even faster.

JS: Right, definitely agree with that. What’s next for Google Cloud? I know you have this 24/7 initiative, but what can people look out for next?

MT: We are going to be very busy through 2030. But I think you’ll keep seeing a couple of innovations from Google on how we’re approaching the 24/7 carbon-free energy. Definitely new things on the technology side. We started with advanced geothermal, we’re trying a lot of other technologies. We hope that we’ll be able to diversify our portfolio pretty quickly. We will remain a large buyer of energy, so stay tuned to see all the new projects that Google will be proud of, in terms of wind and solar across the world.

Then, finally, I think we have a strong role in playing advocacy and policy. We’ll keep playing that role at different levels. The UN report just came out and I think large buyers and large entity like Google will have a centerpiece role in being able to assemble, once again, the stakeholders across the table. We’ll really be trying to push out there and hopefully make a lot of strong development for our customers.

JS: Maud, this was such a pleasure. Thank you so much for being here.

MT: Thank you for the time. It was a pleasure as well.


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