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Bill DiBenedetto headshot

Greenpeace Slams Amazon on Dirty Energy Use


A Greenpeace scorecard on green internet companies cites Amazon Web Services as one of the worst dirty energy transgressors.

The 84-page report released this month, “Clicking Clean: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet,” notes that AWS “provides the infrastructure for a significant part of the Internet.” But it is “among the dirtiest and least transparent companies in the sector, far behind its major competitors, with zero reporting of its energy or environmental footprint to any source or stakeholder.” Twitter is also a culprit in many of the same areas, the report continues.

Amazon gets failing grades from Greenpeace on energy transparency; renewable energy commitment and siting policy; and renewable energy deployment and advocacy. The company also received a “D” on energy efficiency and mitigation. Amazon Web Services relies heavily on nuclear and coal energy to run data-guzzling services like Netflix, Spotify, Tumblr and Yelp, the report states.

Twitter weighs in with three “fails” and a “D” – the latter in renewable energy commitment and siting policy.

Apple scored high marks because it uses only renewable energy for its iCloud and iTunes services.

Greenpeace reports some overall progress: Six major cloud brands – Apple, Box, Facebook, Google, Rackspace and Salesforce – “have committed to a goal of powering data centers with 100 percent renewable energy and are providing the early signs of the promise and potential impact of a renewably powered internet.”

Also, a number of leading brands, notably Apple and Facebook , have made “significant improvements in their energy transparency, discarding the previous dogma within the sector of withholding energy data due to competitiveness concerns.” However, transparency remains weak among many brands, especially co-location providers.

Other findings from the report:

  • As a result of pressure from Apple, Facebook and Google, which are located in North Carolina, Duke Energy, the largest utility in the U.S., adopted a Green Source Rider, opening the market to renewable electricity purchases for large customers in North Carolina.

  • Google is maintaining its leadership in building a renewably powered Internet, as it significantly expands its renewable energy purchasing and investment both independently and through collaboration with its utility vendors.

  • Facebook continues to prove its commitment to build a green Internet, with its decision to locate a data center in Iowa driving the largest purchase of wind turbines in the world.

  • Apple “is the most improved company” since the last Greenpeace report, and “has shown itself to be the most innovative and most aggressive in pursuing its commitment to be 100 percent renewably powered.”

This is serious business because, as the report says: “The rapid growth of the cloud and our use of the internet have produced a collective electricity demand that would currently rank in the top six if compared alongside countries; that electricity demand is expected to increase by 60 percent or more by 2020 as the online population and our reliance on the internet steadily increase.”

And while the shift to an online model can create significant gains in energy efficiency for businesses, “the energy appetite of the Internet continues to outstrip those gains” due to its dramatic growth.

Another problem is that the Internet’s growing energy footprint so far is mostly concentrated in places where energy is the dirtiest. So, “despite the leadership and innovation demonstrated by green internet pioneers, other companies lag far behind, with little sense of urgency, choosing to paper over their growing dirty energy footprints with status quo solutions such as renewable energy credits and carbon offsets while rapidly expanding their infrastructure.”

Amazon and other companies power their infrastructure “based solely on lowest electricity prices, without consideration to the impact their growing electricity footprints have on human health or the environment.”

The Internet isn’t going away; we won’t get to a renewable energy economy and society very quickly or efficiently unless the Internet becomes a platform that leads the way to a clean energy future, rather than leaning on the dirty energy past. Shame on you, Amazon!

Image: Greenpeace Clicking Clean report cover

Bill DiBenedetto headshotBill DiBenedetto

Writer, editor, reader and generally good (okay mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by.

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