Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace is out with its latest report card judging internet companies on use of renewable energy and while Apple, Google and Facebook continue to score the highest marks, the market’s leading IaaS public cloud vendor Amazon Web Services is called out with failing grades.
Overall, Greenpeace applauds the technology sector’s pursuit of a clean energy future. Of the 3.2 Gigawatts of renewable energy purchased in 2015, more than two-thirds of that was from internet companies, Greenpeace notes.
Some vendors are better than others at going green though. Apple, Google and Facebook have led the field in years past and do so once again in Greenpeace’s 2016 wrap-up report. Switch, the Las Vegas-based data center and collocation provider, is named a leader for the first time.
Greenpeace calls out AWS for needing to do more. The Canadian-based environmental advocacy group says AWS has taken “important steps” in recent years, but they haven’t gone far enough. “Given AWS’s continued lack of transparency and its rapid growth in Virginia and other markets largely served by dirty energy, it remains unclear whether the AWS cloud is actually on a path to becoming renewably powered,” the Greenpeace report notes. Greenpeace says AWS, along with Asian data center provider Tencent, LG CNS and Baidu are each leaders in their respective markets, which “(makes) their lack of movement toward more transparency even more egregious.”
AWS, for its part, has committed to being 100% powered by renewable energy, and it most recently said it hopes to be half way to its goal by the end of this year. “AWS has to date enabled 10 renewable energy projects in the United States that will deliver a grand total of 2.6 million MWh of energy annually onto the electric grid powering AWS data centers and four of these projects are already online,” an AWS spokesperson said. “That said, we are nowhere near done. We will continue to make progress toward our 100 percent goal and have many exciting initiatives planned.”
Greenpeace gave AWS an overall grade of “C”, but gave it an F for energy transparency and C grades for energy efficiency and mitigation and renewable procurement. Meanwhile, AWS’s biggest competitors in the IaaS public cloud market are leaders in Greenpeace’s report.
Google received and overall “A” grade, with a B in transparency and A's for mitigation and renewable procurement; Microsoft meanwhile got an overall B grade, with B's for mitigation and procurement. By comparison, some of Asia’s largest web services vendors like Baidu and Tencent got overall failing grades. See the full list of Greenpeace’s scores for Internet companies here.
Greenpeace says one of the most disturbing trends is the growth of data centers in areas like Asia and Virginia, where there are limited options to power those operations from green energy.
While some IaaS cloud vendors argue that a shift to using public cloud resources is good for the environment – because it consolidates workloads into providers who have a better opportunity to use green energy – Greenpeace questions this claim. “The transition to the cloud could in fact increase the demand for coal and other fossil fuels despite significant gains in energy efficiency and adoption of a commitment to 100% renewable energy because of the dramatic growth in new data center construction by cloud and collocation companies such as AWS and Digital Realty in Virginia and other hot spots that have some of the lowest percentages of renewable electricity in the U.S.”
Tech vendors have an opportunity to drive toward a green energy future: Greenpeace estimates that the IT sector consumes more energy than Russia, Japan and India; only the U.S. and China consume more energy than the aggregate IT international sector.