How Google Powers Its ‘Monopoly’ With Enough Electricity For Entire Countries (2022)

The antitrust lawsuit filed yesterday against Google GOOG by the U.S. Justice Department and 11 states, is a landmark in the effort to restrain the power of the world’s biggest technology companies. The government’s complaint says it wants to stop Google from “unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for” search services, advertising, and general search text.

Complex algorithms, software, and custom-built servers helped make Google into one of the world’s richest and most-powerful corporations. But Google’s business is wholly dependent on something more prosaic: electricity. Indeed, the Internet giant’s kudzu-like growth has been fueled by massive quantities of juice.Last year, Google used about 12.4 terawatt-hours of electricity, which means it uses more electric power than entire countries,including ones like Sri Lanka and Zambia. If Google were an independent nation, its electricity use would rank among the top 90 countries in the world. Furthermore, Google’s electricity use is doubling every three years or so.

In short, Google has become a vertically integrated information-electric utility. It gained near-total market dominance in search and advertising by controlling nearly every aspect of its business, including the ownership of its own fleet of electricity generators.

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There are some parallels between Google’s position today and that of the most-famous monopoly in American history: Standard Oil. More than a century ago, John D. Rockefeller controlled large swaths of the oil sector, including refineries, pipelines, and distributors. He even purchased rail tanker cars to assure timely delivery of Standard Oil’s products to customers. Today, Google and the other technology giants are building their own electric grids so their data centers and fiber-optic networks never experience even a second of downtime due to brownouts or blackouts. And as the amount of online information soars, their electricity consumption – and need for ever-more generation capacity (both conventional and renewable) – will continue soaring, too.As shown in the graphic below, since 2011, Google’s electricity use has nearly quintupled.


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Electricity is the world’s most important and fastest-growing form of energy. It is also fueling nearly every aspect of the Information Age. Google represents the most obvious manifestation of this merger of bits and electrons.

I began tracking Google’s electricity use and that of the other big companies that dominate the Internet – Apple AAPL , Amazon AMZN , Facebook, and Microsoft MSFT – a few years ago while researching my latest book,A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations.These companies — which I call the Giant Five — all own, or contract for, massive amounts of electric generation capacity. The Giant Five have deployed their own electric grids so that their data centers won’t be affected if – or rather, when – the local electric grid experiences a blackout. Every data center operated by Google and the other members of the Giant Five has its own electric grid, with huge diesel-fired generators, banks of batteries, and tanks filled with fuel that can allow the onsite generators to fuel the data centers for hours, or even days.

The Giant Five have built these grids because the rule of the New Economy is simple: the bigger your network, the more valuable it is to those who own it and use it. Scale is everything. Google handles over75,000 queries per second. It must have enough computing power – and electric power – ready at all times, no matter the number of customers, and no matter the state of the local electric grid. Even short outages, due to the loss of electricity, hardware problems, or software snags, can cost millions. On July 16, 2018, Amazon’s web site crashed on Prime Day, one of the company’s biggest sales days of the year. Analysts calculated that the 63-minute outage cost the companyabout $100 million in sales.

In A Question of Power, I estimated that at the end of 2018, the Giant Five owned or had contracted for, more than 10,000 megawatts of conventional and renewable generation capacity. That means that the five companies own more electric generation capacity than the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. To burnish their “green” credentials, the Giant Five are also making significant renewable-energy purchases. Google alone has contracted formore than 3,700 megawatts of renewable-energy generation capacity. And the company claims that it “matches” all of its electricity use with equivalent amounts of renewables.

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To see how this works in practice, consider the company’s huge data center in Pryor, Oklahoma. Back in 2011, Google announced it was going to buy electricityfrom a wind-energy project near the town of Minco, Oklahoma so it could, “power our operations with clean electricity.” But the electricity that powers Google’s data center in Pryor is delivered by wires owned by the Grand River Dam Authority. The GRDA generates about 16 percent of the electricity it sells from wind and another eight percent from hydropower. The majority of its electricity comes from hydrocarbons:49 percent from natural gas and another five percent from coal.Therefore, Google may be able to match its use with the renewable electricity it buys or generates, but in practice, the company’s Pryor data center can’t run solely on wind. Instead, it uses whatever electricity is being generated at any given time by the GRDA.

With the notable exception of Amazon, the Giant Five publish their energy-consumption data.Google’s latest environmental reportruns more than 60 pages.Between 2015 and 2018, Google’s electricity use grew by an average of about 23 percent per year. At that rate, its consumption will double in a little more than three years. The company hasn’t published its electricity use figures for last year, but given its average growth of 23 percent per year, I estimate that the company used about 12.4 terawatt-hours of juice in 2019.

Thus, by itself, Google uses more electricity than what’s consumed in more than 100 countries, including Sri Lanka and Zambia, and nearly as much as what’s used in places like Burma and the Dominican Republic. It also uses more juice than seven states—Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine—as well as the District of Columbia. Of those places, Maine (population 1.3 million) comes closest to Google’s hunger for electricity. (In 2018,Maine used about 12.3 terawatt-hoursof electricity.)

While Google uses a lot of electricity now, there’s little doubt that it will use even more in the years ahead. Last year, the company announced some $13 billion in new investments in the United States,including several new data centers. It also plans to spendmore than $3 billion on new data centers in Europeover the next two years.

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It’s too early to tell what will happen with the antitrust lawsuit against Google.The complaint doesn’t mention any specific remedies as to how the government will knock Google from its perch atop the search and advertising business.

So far, the stock market seems to think it won’t matter. Yesterday, Google’s stock traded higher after the suit was announced. But as the cloud-computing business continues its torrid growth, companies like Google and the other members of the Giant Five will continue growing, too. In the digital economy, information is power. And electric power will continue to be the irreplaceable driver of Google’s growth.


Where does Google get its electricity? ›

The majority of its electricity comes from hydrocarbons: 49 percent from natural gas and another five percent from coal. Therefore, Google may be able to match its use with the renewable electricity it buys or generates, but in practice, the company's Pryor data center can't run solely on wind.

What kind of energy does Google use? ›

Google's clean energy efforts is also related to their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Since their commitment to using 100 percent renewable energy, the company has met their targets largely through solar and wind energy power purchase agreements and buying renewable power from utilities.

How much electricity does a Google search use? ›

The Energy Needed to Power a Google Search

The company itself estimates that entering a phrase into its search engine and waiting for the results will cost about 0.0003 kWh, or 1 KJ.

How much power does Google use each day? ›

But when multiplied by Google's estimate of more than a billion searches a day, the figure yields a somewhat surprising result: about 12.5 million watts of Google's 260-million-watt total can be accounted for by searches, the company's bread-and-butter service.

What produces the most electricity in the world? ›

Fossil fuels are the largest sources of energy for electricity generation.

Who brings electricity to the world? ›

Benjamin Franklin is credited for discovering electricity in the 1700s with his kite experiment, in which he flew a kite with a metal key tied to it during a thunderstorm.

Does Google use a lot of energy? ›

Our mission is to organize the world's information. Every Google search you do requires a tiny amount of energy used by the servers in our data centers. With millions of searches per minute and trillions per year, it adds up to a whole lot of energy.

Do Google homes use a lot of electricity? ›

This can cause a TV's overall annual energy use to more than double, with an increase from 106 kilowatt-hours per year (kWh/yr) to 248 kWh/yr.
Smart Speakers.
ProductGoogle Home
On-Mode Power (Watts)2.2
Standby Power (watts)1.9
Annual Energy Use (kWh/yr) per Model17.1
4 more columns
12 Aug 2019

Is Google powered by renewable energy? ›

Since we began purchasing renewable energy in 2010, Google has been responsible for more than 60 new clean energy projects with a combined capacity of over 7 gigawatts — about the same as 20 million solar panels.

How much electricity does the Internet use worldwide? ›

According to a recent report from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, about 10% of the world's total electricity consumption is currently used by the Internet.

How much internet does Google use per hour? ›

On average, Google Maps uses around 2.19MB of data for every hour you're on the road.
Google Maps data vs. other apps.
AppData used per hourTime to 1GB
Google Maps2.19MB457 hours
Apple Maps5.49MB182 hours
Pandora20MB50 hours
Spotify40MB25 hours
3 more rows
10 Oct 2020

How much power is needed to run the Internet? ›

How much energy does it use? How much does it cost; and who pays for it? Our major finding is that the Internet uses an average of about 5 kWh to support the utilization of every GB of data, which equates to about $0.51 of energy costs.

How did Google rise to power? ›

Google's success originated in one simple insight from its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They realised in the late 1990s that the sprawling, chaotic mass of material that was cascading onto the world wide web could be tamed by ranking search results according to their popularity.

What uses the most electricity in a day? ›

Wet appliances

Washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers account for 14% of a typical energy bill, taking the top spot in our list. The power needed to heat the water that they use pushes up consumption, making them energy-hungry household appliances.

What devices use the most power? ›

Which home appliances use the most electricity?
  1. Heating and cooling: 45-50% The largest electricity consumer in the average household is your heating and cooling appliance. ...
  2. Water heater: 12% ...
  3. Lighting: 9-12% ...
  4. Refrigerator: 8% ...
  5. Washer and dryer: 5% ...
  6. Electric oven: 3% ...
  7. Dishwasher: 2% ...
  8. TV and cable box: 2%
22 Sept 2022

Which country has cheapest electricity? ›

Meanwhile, thanks to their great crude oil and natural gas production output, countries like Iran, Qatar, Russia, and Saudi Arabia enjoy some of the cheapest electricity prices in the world. Here, the average household pays less than 0.1 U.S. dollars per kilowatt hour.

Which country has the best electricity system? ›

Ranking of the countries with the highest quality of electricity supply in 2019
Hong Kong100
9 more rows
23 Mar 2022

Which country has the largest electricity? ›

China is the world's largest electricity producing country, followed by the United States and India.

What country has electric first? ›

The world's first public electricity supply was provided in late 1881, when the streets of the Surrey town of Godalming in the UK were lit with electric light.

Which country use electricity first? ›

The first central station providing public power is believed to be one at Godalming, Surrey, U.K. autumn 1881. The system was proposed after the town failed to reach an agreement on the rate charged by the gas company, so the town council decided to use electricity.

Who Found electricity first in the world? ›


How is Google energy efficient? ›

Since 2007, Google claims it has been carbon-neutral, meaning the tech company purchased the same quantity of carbon offsets and renewable energy to make the company's net operational carbon emissions zero.

What is the main reason why Google is investing so much money in renewable energy? ›

Google wants to power all of its operations using renewable energy. A Google spokesman said it economically unnecessary to go green. The spokesman said it made business sense to invest in renewables. Over a third of Google's operations are fuelled by renewables.

Why does Google use so much battery? ›

If the Google app keeps consuming Wi-Fi or mobile data in the background, it can cause your battery to drain quickly. Here's how you can turn off the background data usage of the app. Step 1: Go to the Settings app on your Android phone and head to the Apps section.

How much does it cost to run Google Nest? ›

Year of 24/7 use: $1.96

It uses just 1.6W when monitoring your house for movement, which creeps up to a max of about 1.9W when you use the Live View feature and start messing around, talking through the camera. This will cost you around$1.68 to run for a year.

Do smart devices use more electricity? ›

Smart home devices like thermostats and appliances are highly efficient because they can automatically adjust to changing energy needs. Plus, they can detect inefficiencies so electricity, water and gas waste can be minimized. Your energy consumption can be reduced exponentially when smart devices run your home.

Do Google homes need to charge? ›

Google Home devices, on the other hand, the speakers need to be paid for upfront, just like any other piece of tech like a smartphone or a computer. You can choose from different models, like the Google Home Mini, Home Max, Nest Mini, and more.

What renewable energy does Google use? ›

Today, we are the world's largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy.

How much of Google's energy is renewable? ›

We're proud to announce that in 2020 Google again matched 100 percent of its global electricity use with purchases of renewable energy. We were the first company of our size to achieve this milestone back in 2017, and we've repeated the accomplishment in every year since.

Can renewable energy 100% power the world? ›

Research that has been published in Energy Policy suggests that converting the entire world to 100% renewable energy by 2050 is both possible and affordable, but requires political support. It would require building many more wind turbines and solar power systems but wouldn't utilize bioenergy.

Which country uses a lot of electricity? ›

China is the world's largest consumer of electricity, using over 5.934 trillion kWh of energy annually. China accounts for almost one-quarter of global energy consumption. The country is known for running mainly on coal but has also shifted to natural gas and renewable energy sources in recent years.

How much electricity does Bitcoin use? ›

How much energy does mining take? The Digiconomist's Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index estimated that one bitcoin transaction takes 1,449 kWh to complete, or the equivalent of approximately 50 days of power for the average US household.

Is the world using too much electricity? ›

Between 1980 and 2019, electricity consumption more than tripled, while the global population increased by roughly 75 percent.
Net electricity consumption worldwide in select years from 1980 to 2019 (in terawatt-hours)
CharacteristicNet consumption in terawatt-hours
9 more rows
16 Sept 2022

How much data does a 1 hour Zoom video call use? ›

A one hour zoom meeting uses about 1/2 GB or about 2% of your total monthly data. If you exceed your monthly 20 GB, you can always call in to Zoom instead.

Can you use duo without Wi-Fi? ›

Keep in mind, Duo works over Wi-Fi and cellular data so you can make calls anywhere you have Internet access. Note: When your device is connected to Wi-Fi, Duo still uses a small amount of mobile data. This keeps your conversation going if the Wi-Fi drops.

How much data does discord use? ›

Discord uses quite a lot of data. It usually needs 350 Mb per hour, but this number can go as high as 900 Mb per hour if you switch to a better quality of the videos you watch. This amount of data usage per hour is typicall for Discord on PC, other versions usually consume less data.

What uses the most electricity in the world? ›

The United States ranks as the second-largest electricity consumer, at some 3,800 terawatt hours in 2020.
Electricity consumption worldwide in 2020, by leading country (in terawatt-hours)
CharacteristicConsumption in terawatt-hours
9 more rows
8 Jun 2022

Does using internet use electricity? ›

Energy-sucking servers

A growing proportion of IT energy consumption comes from data centres. These are buildings used to store data and computer hardware, which almost always plug directly into the local electricity grid. In most countries, that means they mostly use non-renewable sources of electricity.

How much electricity does a Wi-Fi? ›

On average, Wi-Fi routers use between 5 and 20 watts of electricity – this number is dependent on the model you have. 10 watts is a safe average electricity consumption to assume for modern Wi-Fi routers from top manufacturers.

Does Google control the world? ›

But Google can't truly rule the world if all it does is rule the online part of it. The self-driving car is a major step forward -- controlling the underlying technology of our transportation network gives Big G control of the flow of people goods from one place to another.

What has made the Google search engine so successful? ›

Speed. Google is generally quicker than the other search engines at bringing back results. It is able to deliver millions of results in 0.19 of a second. This is down to their technical infrastructure, which is much better than the other engines.

What are the key factors that have brought success to Google? ›

The most important Google success factors
  • Content that targets users search queries. ...
  • Crawlability. ...
  • Links. ...
  • User intent (and behavior) ...
  • Uniqueness. ...
  • Authority. ...
  • Freshness. ...
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
11 Mar 2019

What is cheaper gas or electric? ›

Gas energy is much cheaper to run than electricity on a regular basis, but the overall costs of installation, maintenance and running expenses tend to favour electricity, with the average lifetime of products also outlasting that of gas.

How much electricity does a smart TV use? ›

Key findings: Modern TVs use, on average, 58.6 watts when in On mode and 1.3 watts in standby mode. The power consumption of modern TVs ranges from 10W to 117W (0.5W to 3W on standby). On average, TVs consume 106.9 kWh of electricity per year, costing $16.04 annually to run in the US.

What is the cheapest way to cook? ›

For instance, microwaves, slow cookers and air fryers all tend to be cheaper ways of cooking meals than using an oven. “While cooking more efficiently will help reduce the amount of energy that consumers use, the money they save as a result will only go so far.

Is electricity cheaper at night UK? ›

Usually – the 7 hours of off-peak electricity rates at night are usually cheaper, but you can check with your energy supplier to be sure. If you're an EDF customer you can find out the current unit rates for economy 7 meters as of 1st October 2022, if you're on the standard variable tariff.

How much electricity does a computer use? ›

Generally, computers use between 30 and 70 watts (W) of electricity, depending on the model. Computers usually use between 3 and 5 amps, and connect to a 120-volt outlet. Larger desktop and gaming computers can use up to 500 W.

How much does it cost to run a microwave for 1 minute? ›

It depends on the microwave's energy rating and the power setting used but using the calculations above it would cost less than half a penny to run a microwave with an average of 1kWh for one minute.

Does Google use electricity? ›

Google's data centers around the world use about twice as much electricity as the city of San Francisco.

Where does the US get it's electricity? ›

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, most of the nation's electricity was generated by natural gas, nuclear energy, and coal in 2020. Electricity is also produced from renewable sources such as wind, hydropower, solar power, biomass, wind, and geothermal.

Which devices use the most electricity? ›

Top five energy consuming home appliances
  • Wet appliances. Washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers account for 14% of a typical energy bill, taking the top spot in our list. ...
  • Cold appliances. ...
  • Consumer electronics. ...
  • Lighting. ...
  • Cooking.
14 Jan 2022

How much power does it take to power the Internet? ›

How much energy does it use? How much does it cost; and who pays for it? Our major finding is that the Internet uses an average of about 5 kWh to support the utilization of every GB of data, which equates to about $0.51 of energy costs.

Does a phone use much electricity? ›

This is a lot less than we expected...

An iPhone/average smartphone hold around 1,440mAh of charge, or about 5.45 watt hours. This means that if you were to drain and charge your phone everyday, it would require 2,000 watt hours (or 2 kWh) of energy a year.

Does Google home waste electricity? ›

Due to their efficient designs, each one only consumes a few dollars ($1.50-$4) of electricity per year.
Smart Speakers.
ProductGoogle Home
On-Mode Power (Watts)2.2
Standby Power (watts)1.9
Annual Energy Use (kWh/yr) per Model17.1
4 more columns
12 Aug 2019

Is Google really powerful? ›

If information is power in the digital age (and it is), then Google has a fair claim to being the most powerful company in the world. It has collected, digitised, arranged and presented more information than any company in history.

What happens if too much electricity is produced? ›

Too much electricity, low demand

If too much electricity is fed into the grid in relation to the quantity consumed, the electrical frequency increases. Since power plants are designed to operate within a certain frequency range, there is a risk that they will disconnect from the grid after a period of time. .

Does the U.S. get electricity from other countries? ›

Where do U.S. power imports come from? Electricity imports from Canada represent nearly 90 percent of annual power imports in the U.S. In 2021, more than 48 terawatt-hours were imported from Canada. However, U.S. electricity imports from Mexico.

How many nuclear power plants are in the world? ›

In 2021, the construction of ten new nuclear power plants began globally.
Number of operational nuclear reactors worldwide from 1954 to 2021.
CharacteristicNumber of nuclear power plants
9 more rows
1 Aug 2022


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