In late 2019, Microsoft chose ENGIE to supply its green electricity in the United States. In 2020, this time with Amazon, we signed the largest portfolio of contracts ever signed with the same company, again for renewable electricity supply. In 2021, Orange and Netflix, then Google followed suit. What all these companies have in common is that they belong to the digital sector in its widest sense, operating in cloud-based digital services, new technologies or online access to entertainment content. All of them have signed Green Power Purchase Agreements (Green PPAs) with us. These are renewable energy contracts that develop over the long term and enable our clients to decarbonise their energy consumption on a large scale.
When the first PPAs appeared at the beginning of the 2010s and ENGIE started offering them, the Big Five (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft) were the first to express an interest. Other large corporations from so-called traditional sectors followed suit, including Solvay, General Motors and Unilever. Grace Sizey, Key Client Office Deputy Managing Director at ENGIE, believes this demonstrates an innate sense of innovation: "It's in their DNA to offer new services and this state of mind infuses their CSR commitments, which for the last dozen years have included climate change. They want to offer their customers a green cloud. To do this, they set themselves very ambitious goals: Google is targeting Net Zero Carbon in 2030, Microsoft is working to have a negative carbon footprint by the same year, Amazon is considering Net Zero Carbon for all its activities by 2040… And as demand is growing exponentially, they are all in a race against time.”
Huge energy requirements
In addition to this corporate culture open to innovation, the growth prospects of these giants is far superior to the market average, requiring them to adopt a long-term electricity supply strategy, because maintaining security and continuity of operations is fundamental to their business strategy. Aware of the environmental consequences of their operations, each of the Big Five has developed highly ambitious Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies, with a strong focus on carbon neutrality.
4.7 to 6%
The digital sector's share in global final energy consumption worldwide in 2025, compared with 3% in 2021.
Source: France Stratégie
On average, every quarter no fewer than 16 new data centers (Source Cabinet Synergy Research) open. "Decarbonisation is a priority for this business community, particularly in light of their growing needs," says Stéphane Pirotte, Head of European Sales at ENGIE GEM. "And their consumption is primarily driven by their data centers. Hyperscale data centers use over 100 MW of electricity each. They have to meet the growing expansion and diversification of digital uses. Their electricity requirements are forecast to be 15 times higher by 2030!”
Did you know?
Internet and cloud giants operate 660 data centers worldwide, twice as many as five years ago.
Source: Cabinet Synergy Research
Critical size for first PPAs
Before our Group began offering PPAs for all, the first Green PPAs were intended for very large, "energy-intensive" companies whose resources enabled them to consult energy experts to understand the workings of this type of contract. Stéphane Pirotte believes that American tech giants were ideally placed because they "had not only the drive, but also the considerable financial resources and energy experts they needed. So we were able to offer these solutions, which have relatively complex structures and legal frameworks, without that being a significant barrier. They were also won over by our overall approach to decarbonisation, particularly as we operate across the entire value chain: from procuring and supplying the land for their networks, to managing, optimising and maintaining energy facilities (air conditioning and heat recovery systems, emergency electricity production, and solar and wind farm maintenance).”
Through its subsidiaries RED and Tractebel, ENGIE is renowned for its expertise in engineering, design, audit, and optimisation for the data center industry.
ENGIE's scope and expertise
"Their expectations and standards are very high," says Grace Sizey. "They push us to design constantly more innovative solutions and to explore and open up new emerging markets." As they take on this challenge, tech giants need a global partner they can identify with. In this, ENGIE is able to meet their expectations through its operations in a large number of geographic zones that are strategic markets. The Group's ability to provide support, both in their traditional markets like the US, and in their developing markets such as India, is a vital asset. Stéphane Pirotte believes that "data centers' high energy consumption is another reason why tech giants are turning to very reliable energy providers. ENGIE has proved time and again its ability to successfully complete the cumbersome administrative procedures surrounding the development of renewables, particularly when it comes to moving things forward with decision makers in the regions where facilities are located. We have experience in large-scale projects, offer competitive market pricing conditions, and are very open to dialogue with all our contacts, whether in the client's sales, engineering or legal teams, which ultimately saves time.”
Did you know?
A hyperscale data center can use up to 120 MW of electricity, equivalent to the total consumption of a town with about 150,000 inhabitants.
France Stratégie, October 2020
Creativity and innovation at ENGIE
ENGIE also stands out from competition by offering creative and customised PPAs. The n° 1 priority being to guarantee a continuous and reliable supply of green electricity for data centers with uninterrupted consumption throughout day and night. For Microsoft in the United States, for example, our experts designed a solution based on solar and wind power in order to iron out the inherent risk of intermittency associated with both these energy sources. "Broadly speaking, solar is more productive in the summer and wind in the winter. By combining the two, we can guarantee a carbon-neutral energy supply almost continuously throughout the year," says Stéphane Pirotte. For Google's new facilities in Germany, we take it one big step further: from early 2022, the tech giant's new data centers will be powered by a highly innovative solution whereby ENGIE guarantees all year round a minimum of 80% carbon-free energy when measured on an hourly basis. This is a first in Europe.
And over the next three years, GEM will develop and negotiate a portfolio of renewable energy to meet growing electricity requirements by combining solar and wind energy, while increasing the hourly rate of carbon-neutral energy. (see box). "Ultimately, tech giants are coming to ENGIE for this creativity and our ability to manage complexity and innovate for tomorrow: for example, by developing green hydrogen to supply carbon-free energy when it is needed (particularly when weather conditions are not favourable for renewable energy production), or by investigating the scope of batteries for storing energy and providing it on demand. Essential solutions to replace existing diesel back-ups, which can be activated when there is a breakdown in supply but which are of little relevance in our customers' carbon strategies." So, tech giants and ENGIE share this passion for R&D and innovation, which applies right down the line to digital solutions. For example, we offer solutions based on artificial intelligence to optimise green energy supply. Like the Darwin platform developed with Microsoft, which collects real-time data from wind, solar, hydroelectric and biogas plants and combines it with other strategic information.
"For these heavy-weight champions, ENGIE offers valuable and reassuring operational strengths: the capacity to deliver projects with complex administrative components, to operate large-scale renewable energy farms, to guarantee competitive market pricing conditions, to provide customers with skilled contacts at every level: sales, legal, technological, operational teams, etc."
Stéphane Pirotte, Head of European Sales at ENGIE GEM
"It takes three to five years to complete an industrial-scale renewable production project with a CPPA covering energy supply to a data center. It requires huge financial support and specialist skills. Alliance between fast-growing solvent corporations like the Big Five and an energy company with ENGIE's scope and expertise is one of the conditions helping to accelerate growth of renewable capacity worldwide.”
Grace Sizey, Key Client Office Deputy Managing Director
ENGIE x Google in Germany
ENGIE is to assemble and develop a carbon-free energy portfolio in Germany on Google’s behalf. This portfolio will have the ability to flex and grow as the American tech giant's needs change in the region. In practical terms, this means the two Groups will purchase electricity from 23 renewable energy projects in five German states, some of which will be newly built from scratch. Others, such as existing onshore wind projects, will see their life extended, instead of being dismantled. The portfolio will be mainly composed of wind projects, but ENGIE has also planned in a solar farm to iron out the risk of intermittency associated with wind power, as for Microsoft in the United States. Through this partnership, Google and ENGIE are finding ingenious ways to change the way green energy is delivered to customers, and are supporting Germany's decarbonisation goals.