Google and Apple announce new low carbon investments

US technology giants reveal backing for renewable energy and efficiency measures

(Pic: Apple)

(Pic: Apple)

By Ed King

Google plans to partner with SunPower Corporation in a $250m effort to drive residential rooftop solar systems in the US.

The technology giant says it will buy solar panels and lease them back to homeowners at a cost lower than their electricity bills.

“By participating in this program, you don’t just help the environment—you can also save money,” writes Rob Parker, from Google’s renewable energy team.

Google’s $100m contribution to this project makes this its 16th major clean energy venture.

In total the company says it now has over $1 billion invested in low carbon schemes around the world, part of a wider strategy to ensure it remains carbon neutral.

Earlier this week the company also signed off a deal with MidAmerican Energy to supply its Iowa data centre facilities with up to 407 MW of 100% renewable wind energy.

In the past year Google has emerged as one of the key technology companies committed to backing low carbon energy solutions and investing in ways to address climate change.

Recent initiatives include a partnership with the White House to map climate impacts, the launch of a new deforestation tracking tool, and a $75m stake in Texas’ burgeoning wind sector.

The news comes in the same week Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors climate change is a “real problem,” releasing a video outlining the company’s commitment to improving its environmental record.

In a letter Apple’s vice-president for environmental initiatives Tina Jackson, formerly head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, said the business was “taking responsibility” to clean up its act.

“This means using greener materials and constantly inventing new ways to conserve precious resources,” she said.

Apple’s carbon footprint for 2013 was 33.8m metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, 75% from manufacturing, much of which is based in China.

It says new products are designed to use less energy and resources, citing the iMac, which used 97% less electricity than 1998 models.

“Our goal is to power all Apple corporate offices, retail stores, and data centres entirely with energy from renewable sources — solar, wind, micro‑hydro, and geothermal, which uses heat right from the earth,” says the company’s website.

Separately, UN climate change envoy and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced he’s investing $5 million in a project to deliver solar lamps to sub-Saharan Africa.

The ‘Little Sun’ scheme is being rolled out in Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Senegal, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and aims to help households stop using kerosene.

Kerosene is widely used in African households for cooking, heating, and lighting, but is flammable and causes a significant number of fires and deaths each year.

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