According to “Clicking Clean: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet,” a new Greenpeace report on energy usage by the cloud-computing industry, IT behemoths like Apple, Facebook and Google are leading the charge for renewable energy, while several others — notably Amazon Web Services and Twitter — receive failing grades due to their reliance on “dirty” power from coal and other greenhouse-gas emitting sources.
At a February shareholders meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook even suggested that climate sceptics “get out of the stock,” if they didn’t approve of the company’s green initiatives.
“Apple’s rapid shift to renewable energy over the past 24 months has made it clear why it’s one of the world’s most innovative and popular companies,” said Gary Cook, the report’s lead author and a senior IT analyst for the environmental group. “By continuing to buy dirty energy, Amazon Web Services not only can’t seem to keep up with Apple, but is dragging much of the internet down with it.”
The cloud industry is growing rapidly, and those endless server farms burn a lot of power — more each year than all but five of the world’s most energy-hogging countries, the report states.
Fortunately, it’s also among the environmentally responsible sectors of the global economy.
The report is generally upbeat, noting that six of the top cloud-computing companies — Google, Apple, Facebook, Box, Rackspace and Salesforce — have made strong commitments to the goal of powering their data centres with 100% renewable energy. As such companies make decisions about where to situate their operations, these clean-energy policies are causing a scramble among states and energy utilities to adopt green policies to woo their business.
Apple, for instance, has increased its use of green energy at its iCloud data centres from 35% to 75% in three years, rolling out massive solar arrays near its server farms in North Carolina and Nevada, and relying on wind energy for its sites in Oregon and California.
Google powers its server farms in Iowa, Oklahoma and Finland with renewable energy, and has made major investments in solar power.
The report heaps praise on Facebook for pulling back the curtain on its energy footprint, going so far as to provide “facility-specific performance dashboards,” so anyone can see exactly where the company’s power is coming from. (It has also made the software open-source, inviting other companies to follow its lead.) One new Facebook data center, based in Sweden, uses 100% hydropower, and the company announced plans to build a new server farm in Iowa that will run entirely on wind-power.
eBay, which has had a more mixed record on green energy, recently installed natural gas fuel cells around its Utah data center rather than continue to purchase energy from local coal-powered plants.
And Apple, Google and Facebook — all of which operate data centres in North Carolina — successfully pressured Duke Energy, the largest utility in the country and, according to Greenpeace “one of its biggest emitters of global warming pollution,” to launch a program in the state to offer renewable energy to major customers.
But other big tech companies, notably Amazon and Twitter, get slammed in the report for making use of “dirty” energy from coal and other fossil feuls and for failing to be transparent about energy usage.
Twitter, which rents its server space from “colocation” companies, the report says, “[discoloses] no information about its energy footprint,” earning an “F” for transparency on Greenpeace’s report card. The company has made, “no public effort to procure renewable energy for its data centres,” the report adds.
“Twitter believes strongly in energy efficiency and optimization of resources for minimal environmental impact,” a spokesperson for the service emailed Business Insider. “As we build out our infrastructure, we continue to strive for even greater efficiency of operations.”
Amazon, which provides cloud services for Netflix, Pinterest, Spotify, and Vine, among many other companies, was named the least transparent company in the report, “[failing] to make public even the most basic details on its energy footprint.” The company also gets dinged for operating “without any apparent regard to environmental impact or access to renewable energy.”
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
Disclosure: Amazon founxer and CEO Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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