Google is crossing a milestone in its quest to reduce pollution caused by its digital services that devour massive amounts of electricity.
The Internet company believes that starting next year, it will have amassed enough renewable energy to meet all of its electricity needs throughout the world.
That's significant, given Google's ravenous appetite for electricity to power its offices and the huge data centers that process requests on its dominant search engine, and store Gmail, YouTube video clips and photos for more than a billion people.
Google says its 13 data centers and offices consume about 5.7 terawatt hours of electricity annually — nearly the same amount as San Francisco, where more than 800,000 people live and tens of thousands of others come to work and visit.
The accomplishment announced Tuesday doesn't mean Google will be able to power its operations solely on wind and solar power. That's not possible because of the complicated way that power grids and regulations are set up around the United States and the rest of the world.
Google instead believes it's now in a position to offset every megawatt hour of electricity supplied by a power plant running on fossil fuels with renewable energy that the Mountain View, Calif., company has purchased through a variety of contracts. About 95 percent of Google's renewable energy deals come from wind power farms, with the remainder from solar power.
Nearly 20 other tech companies also have pledged to secure enough renewable energy to power their worldwide operations, said Gary Cook, senior energy campaigner for the environmental group Greenpeace.
Google made its commitment four years ago and appears to be the first big company to have fulfilled the promise.
Cook said the symbolic message sent by Google's achievement is important to environmental experts who believe electricity generated with coal and natural gas is causing damage that is contributing to extreme swings in the climate.