Amazon Inc., whose warehouses and data centres ring the globe, is adding nine new renewable energy projects to its green power portfolio, including its first in Canada, to help offset its massive and growing carbon footprint.

The company said the Canadian project, an 80-megawatt solar project in the county of Newell between Calgary and Medicine Hat, will produce more than 195,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable energy once completed, enough to power more than 18,000 Canadian homes for a year.

That and other new utility-scale wind and solar energy projects in the United States, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom bring Amazon’s total renewable capacity to 8.5 gigawatts, making the U.S. technology company the world's largest corporate buyer of green energy.

“Many parts of our business are already operating on renewable energy, and we expect to power all of Amazon with renewable energy by 2025 — five years ahead of our original target of 2030,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.

The new deals take the company’s tally of renewable energy projects to 206, including 71 utility-scale wind and solar projects and 135 solar rooftops on facilities and stores worldwide.

The company also aims to make itself net carbon-neutral by 2040, a pledge it made in 2019 that would put it a decade ahead of countries like Canada, the U.S. and the EU, all of which have plans to reach net zero by 2050.

“This is a great case study of how these big corporations — not just governments — are increasingly moving in this direction and can create opportunities for Canadian companies,” said Sarah Petrevan, policy director at Clean Energy Canada, noting Amazon plans to purchase up to 2,500 electric trucks from Lion Electric, a Quebec-based manufacturer, in the next few years.

Amazon has pledged to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles overall (and for the first of them to start delivering in 2021), and aims to make half its shipments net-zero by 2030 and invest heavily in new technologies and solutions.

But the company also pollutes on the scale of a medium-sized country, saying in June last year that its operations emitted the equivalent of more than 51 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019, a 15 per cent jump from 44.4 million metric tonnes in 2018, the first year it counted.

Bulgaria, Hungary, Norway and Finland each produced around 50 million tonnes of emissions in 2017, according to a European Union report.

Amazon points out that while its overall footprint grew in 2019, it is becoming more energy-efficient since its sales growth also expanded by 22 per cent.

Amazon's newest wind and solar investments bring its total renewable capacity to 8.5 gigawatts, making it the world's largest corporate buyer of green energy. It also pollutes on the scale of a medium-sized country.

The company’s businesses have seen increased demand since the COVID-19 pandemic, with online shopping volumes surging as the virus has forced retail stores to close and compelled businesses and governments to use more cloud computing as their employees work from home.

Construction is also underway for the company’s four-million-square-foot second headquarters just outside of Washington, D.C., in Virginia.

Amazon’s total footprint includes emissions from Amazon-operated and third-party freight, electricity use at offices, warehouses, grocery stores and data centres, plus the energy used to create and use Amazon-branded products and for customers to get to its more than 500 Whole Foods grocery stores in North America and the United Kingdom.

The new investments also include Amazon’s first solar project to include energy storage, a 100 MW project in California, as well as the largest ever corporate investment in the U.K., a 350 MW wind farm off the Scottish coast.

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The goal needs to be a footprint that is near zero before offsets. Amazon and other companies are already overdrawn on their climate bank accounts.

The scale and the timelines are both impressive and sobering. One massive company in the USA is, from a carbon perspective, operating on the scale of Norway. It will take billions of dollars and years of construction to displace all of Amazon's direct activities from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Scale this up by a factor of 5 or 6 and that gives you the scale of effort needed in Canada. Most communities can only sustain a revolution or an emergency response for a short time (vide Covid-19) but a conversion like Amazon's requires sustained, multi-year effort. Is it any wonder that governments, who can only lead from behind are having difficulty with this issue? It looks like it is incumbent on the general public to get ahead of the politicians on this issue and sanction a short, intense effort that will change the direction of our energy economy, after which effort we can go back to our more ordinary lives while our governments manage the ongoing voyage.