The new energy revolution

Almost two and a half centuries ago, the world was experiencing what is now known as the Industrial Revolution. The switch to coal as primary input for the production of power led to a significant rise in the total output of the economy. Today, the economically workable coal deposits are expected to be exhausted by 2158 and experts are speaking about another revolution – The Energy Revolution.

2015 has been an important milestone in the transition to a cleaner energy economy. In 2015, not only was there a greater recognition of global climate change but the US finally committed itself to seriously cleaning up its power supply. The newly released rules will force states to curb carbon emissions from their power plants over the next 15 years. These regulations constitute a vital step for America, as it has fought curbing carbon ever since 1997, when it refused to sign the Kyoto aprotocol. Nowadays, after years of climate change denial, the United States have initiated the construction of its first biggest off-shore wind farm in Rhode Island.

Raising the havoc with the energy market

Greenpeace has given even more momentum to the recent developments. Its 2015 Energy Revolution report estimates that, between 2004 and 2015, 496,000 MW of solar and wind plants have been created worldwide, an amount equivalent to the total coal and gas power plants in Europe. These trends show that more and more companies and households are going to generate their own power. This represents a radical change for the current energy model in most of the world’s economies.

Among others, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) also established the notion of a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC). RECs can be defined as tradable property rights to the environmental and overall qualities of renewable electricity generation. The objective of these rights is to provide an incentive for private companies to undertake investments in green power plants. Internet cloud companies were among the first ones to embrace that model. Initially, these corporations shifted thousands of businesses to the online model. This shift alone contributed to the realization of sufficient energy savings. As time elapsed and the Internet and Cloud computing industry grew, datacenters quickly felt the need for increasing amounts of energy supplies. To satisfy this demand, while committing to green policies, big technology companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have undertaken a series of investments worldwide in order to build and generate their own clean power.

Google and Amazon making a stir in renewables

Google, the world’s “personal assistant”, has already invested in more than twenty solar, wind and photovoltaic plants in the US and overseas.  These investments have accounted for more than $2.5 billion, which makes Google one of the largest corporate investors in renewable energy in the world. More than sponsoring new plants directly, Google also committed itself to purchasing clean energy from energy farms nearby. So far, these purchases have amounted to 2 gigawatts of renewable energy – once again making Google the largest corporate “purchaser” of renewable energy worldwide.

Amazon and the Amazon web services in particular, a player that features one of the world’s largest datacenters, is also committed to 100 percent renewable energy and zero carbon footprints. On top of generating 84 percent reduction in power consumption by switching individual on-premise datacenters to the cloud, Amazon’s power mix currently sources 25% of clean energy. These two factors combined represent an incredible 88% reduction in carbon emissions compared to a typical on-premise data center.

However, the GAFAs (Google, Facebook and Amazone) are not the only companies that follow the “green line”. 400,000 US households are already relying on solar power in 2014 and experts expect this number to rise up to an incredible 3.8 million homes by 2020. These statistics, together with the rising moral and social awareness on climate change, show that the US is serious about its large-scale renewable energy. The black coal world, as we have known it for centuries, will soon have to change colors. The economy will dress up in green from now on.

Photo credit: Jondaar_1; unedited;