Big Tech & Renewables: A Sustainable Future

Siddhartha Dasgupta

October 3, 2020

The phone you have in your hand or the laptop on which you are reading this article has most probably a microchip manufactured in the tiny island of Taiwan. Qualcomm, Apple, Intel and Samsung, all manufacture microchips in Taiwan.

In fact, the Taiwanese economy is fueled by Microchip exports. In the month of August, chip exports from Taiwan increased by 8.3% to $31.2 Billion, the record was primarily  because of the Huawei stockpiling. However, the real story isn’t about the well-chronicled success of the semiconductor industry in Taiwan. 

The Sustainable Future  

 As the world pushes through to reverse the long term impact of climate change, Tech giants such as Google and Apple who have manufacturing contracts in Taiwan have lobbied the government and funded the setting up of renewable sources of power for the plants which manufacture micro-chips for them. 

Apple estimates that shifting to renewables for its supplier factories in Taiwan. Both Apple and Google have ambitious climate goals and the greening of the Supply chain is essential for Apple which has pledged to have net zero carbon footprint by 2030. 99% of Apple’s carbon emissions comes from supplier factories.

Its estimated that if Apple successfully greens its supply chain, that will be equivalent to keeping 3 million cars off roads each year. To put that in perspective, that’s 3x the number of private cars in a Megapolis like Mumbai. 

Taiwan has really been at the forefront of tech hardware exports for a long time. In fact, $53.4 Billion of Taiwanese Corporate Revenues have been from companies which supply to big tech who have clean power goals.

Meeting some of these goals isn’t easy for a country that relies heavily on coal, natural gas and nuclear. Its not just about rooftop solar panels. It’s a fundamental shift in the mode of power generation.

Even with limited resources and land, the country has taken a big plunge into renewables, accelerated by big tech. The commitment is witnessed by the recent deal with Danish firm Orsted, where TSMC has agreed to buy the entire power production from its 3rd offshore wind farm in Taiwan, making it the world’s largest corporate renewables deal. 

Big Tech & Renewables: A Global Phenomenon 

In 2019, tech firms bought a quarter of the renewable energy sold to global corporations. Why do tech firms traditionally need o purchase more power besides having net positive carbon emission goals? The answer lies in data. They need more power to run their data centers. Hence, it’s not surprising that between Google, Facebook, Amazon & Microsoft, they bought 5,500 MW of renewable energy last year, with Google alone accounting for half of the power requirement. 

As per research done by BloombergNEF, the amount of clean energy bought by global corporations dwarfs the entire energy capacities of countries like Vietnam and Poland. Google has curtailed take the scale of its clean energy commitments to whole new level. It has inked 18 agreements for clean energy supply across the world. Moreover, as Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google mentioned, the latest deals will drive construction of renewable energy infrastructure worth $2 Billion. 

It seems like we are past those days when renewable energy projects had to scramble for funds. Thanks to Big Tech, there’s enough funds available in the renewable energy sector, which is bound to grow more as countries race toward meeting their Paris Accord commitments. 

Its particularly ironic that we have American technology companies lapping up renewable energy and they are willing to go that extra mile to meet their own clean goals and run their operations from renewable sources, at a time when the US government has decided to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. 

Source: Quartz, Reuters, Guardian, Caixing Global 

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About the author
Siddhartha Dasgupta

Contributing Author

Sid has been a content solutions evangelist and a digital marketer for 10+ years. Having written for brands such as IBM, Infosys and other technology corporations and startups, he is always at the cutting edge of researching & writing about emerging technologies.

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