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In blow to coal industry, tech firms push for renewable energy

Since 2008, renewable energy sources have gone from generating 9 percent of America’s electricity to 18 percent, and, as USA Today reports, a large part of that is due to tech giants such as Amazon and Google. Several of these firms have pledged to run their data centers on renewable energy.

Both Google and Apple have said that many of their facilities and data centers are running on 100-percent renewable energy. This is driving energy companies to shift their focus away from coal to wind and solar.

Renewable energy is more expensive than traditional sources, but these tech firms have the money to spend and, in doing so, they are obliging the market to adapt to them.

“We have the ability to shape the market,” said Michael Terrell, head of Google Energy Policy. “If you build it, we will come.”

This is bad news for the coal industry which has been struggling for several years now. The Trump administration has billed itself as coal-friendly, but coal companies still need to sell their product on the market and the market is increasingly demanding clean energy.

When Amazon wanted to open a data center in Virginia, it found that Dominion Power, the local utility company, did not have the means to supply it with 100-percent renewable energy. Dominion resisted at first but eventually worked out an agreement with Amazon allowing the online retail giant to obtain its energy from renewable sources.

“We thought about it, we understood their reasoning, we convinced ourselves that it was in our best interests to do it and we ended up signing,” said Dominion’s Greg Morgan.

It’s not just Google and Apple that are pushing for clean energy. Many of their suppliers have made the move to renewable energy. Nearly two dozen of Apple’s suppliers have announced that they will move to 100-percent renewable energy. These companies see it as an investment to help maintain Apple’s business.

“The smart ones are seeing it as a competitive advantage,” said Apple’s VP of environmental policy, Lisa Jackson. “They know they have an edge in competing for Apple’s business.”

Coal is not dead yet, but it is becoming increasingly clear to power companies that if they want to do business with tech titans such as Amazon and Google, they need offer clean renewable energy.

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