artificial intelligence

Google far away from achieving net-zero emissions, citing AI’s energy demands

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Google far away from achieving net-zero emissions, citing AI’s energy demands

GOOGLE. The Google name is displayed outside the company's office in London, Britain November 1, 2018

Toby Melville/Reuters

Google may not reach its goal by 2030, following the integration of artificial intelligence into its products. 

In 2021, Google decided to achieve net-zero emissions across all its operations by 2030. Unfortunately, according to its 2024 Environmental Report released on July 2, the company has struggled to reduce its emissions – with a 13% increase in greenhouse gas emissions over the past year and 48% more compared to 2019. 

Google claimed its attempts to integrate AI into its systems are the main culprit of the rise in emissions. The company wrote that it is “due to increasing energy demands from the greater intensity of AI compute, and the emissions associated with the expected increases in our technical infrastructure investment.” 

Speaking with the Associated Press, Kate Brandt, chief sustainability officer at Google, emphasized that this goal “is not going to be easy” and their “approach will need to continue to evolve.” 

Brandt further explained that achieving this net-zero promise will require Google “to navigate a lot of uncertainty, including this uncertainty around the future of AI’s environmental impacts, which is complex and difficult to predict.” 

Google, however, believes that AI can help transition to a low-carbon future. According to the Boston Consulting Group, the technology could reduce by around 5% to 10% greenhouse gas emissions, while providing $1 trillion to $3 trillion to corporate sustainability in value by 2030. 

At the Breakthrough Energy Summit, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft also agreed with this sentiment, expressing that AI can increase the efficiency of existing technologies. In response to growing concerns about the load AI has on data centers, Gates states that “Datacenters are, in the most extreme case, a 6% addition” in terms of power demand. He then clarifies that AI can “certainly reduce the power demand by more than 6%” through integration with green technology. 

While the Microsoft co-founder may recognize AI’s capability to further green energy, he clarifies that reaching a net zero in emissions will remain difficult.

“I worry, in general, that the amount of green electricity that we need for the transition is not going to show up nearly as fast as we need,” Gates said. 

Gates adds, “Another 10 or 15 years might be more realistic.”– Rav Ayag/

Rav Ayag is a Tech and Features intern at Rappler. He is an incoming senior at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Creative Writing program. 

This story was vetted by a reporter and an editor.

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