Greenpeace issued its annual report on the energy efficiency of Internet companies, praising Apple Inc. (AAPL:US), Facebook Inc. (FB:US) and other major providers of online services for improved use of energy resources.
Apple, which was given a low score by the environmental group two years ago, made the most gains in transparency, internal conservation efforts and the use and advocacy of renewable energy, Greenpeace said in a report.
Box Inc., Google Inc., Rackspace Hosting Inc. and Salesforce.com Inc. were also praised for their efforts to run their data centers entirely on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN:US) was singled out in the note, titled “Clicking Clean: How Companies Are Creating the Green Internet,” as the only technology company not moving in the right direction.
“It’s not often that we get an opportunity to celebrate companies’ progress,” said Gary Cook, the Greenpeace legislative director who authored the report. “We’re not used to this, but there’s been a huge change in the past two years.”
The group, which began a campaign two years ago called “How Clean is Your Cloud?,” looked at how technology providers are managing their energy needs as they build data centers for delivering software, music, movies and information to customers via the Internet. The servers handling the data not only consume electricity but require air conditioning to keep them from overheating.
“This is about a change in economics,” said Adam Browning, executive director of the San Francisco-based Vote Solar initiative. “Making big pioneering moves highlights the positive economic impact of renewables.”
Amazon, which has an Internet cloud-computing business called Amazon Web Services, will have to do more to boost its use of renewable energy, Cook said. Greenpeace may begin a campaign to pressure Amazon customers such as Netflix Inc. and Spotify Ltd. to move to other providers with greener credentials.
“They’re the absolute laggards in the industry right now,” Cook said of Amazon. “All the other companies have made some incredible changes in the past 24 months, but Amazon has remained totally silent.”
Mary Camarata, a spokeswoman for Amazon, said two of the company’s data centers use 100 percent clean power.
“We agree with Greenpeace that technology leaders should help safeguard the environment by implementing both efficient use and clean sources of energy,” Camarata wrote in an e-mailed statement. The report “misses the mark by using false assumptions on AWS operations and inaccurate data on AWS energy consumption. We provided this feedback to Greenpeace prior to publishing their report.”
Cook cited how Apple, Facebook and Google, which all own huge data centers in North Carolina, pushed the local utility to offer industrial customers a special rate for renewable power sources. Apple operates a solar farm at its facility in Maiden, North Carolina, and is planning on adding solar capabilities in Oregon and Nevada.
“When you get a lot of like-minded companies with significant demand for power, it has an impact on incumbent utilities,” said Gary Demasi, director of operations for data center location strategy and energy at Google. Demasi said he told Duke Energy Corp. last year that Google would not go through with an expansion of its data center without increased access to green energy.
Greenpeace awarded Apple three “A”s and one “B,” tying with Facebook for the highest marks. Two years ago, the iPhone maker received three “D”s and one “F” for its main green energy categories.
“They have effectively secured enough renewable energy to meet their entire needs,” Cook said. “Apple has made good on its commitment to be 100 percent renewable.”
Greenpeace’s Cook also credited Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook for taking a far more public role on energy strategy. The company also hired Lisa Jackson, the former chief of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, as Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives.
“Actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to issues as important as climate change,” Apple said in a statement. “We’ve built the country’s largest private solar array and fuel cell installations at our site in North Carolina, and innovative clean energy projects are in the works for our data centers in Nevada and Oregon.”
Cook also credited Facebook for pushing a new “Open Hardware” movement that lets companies share information on how to create the most efficient computers and networking gear.
Microsoft (MSFT:US) was criticized for relying too much on carbon offsets, rather than demanding utilities provide additional sources of green power.
“We’re certainly moving toward purchasing more renewable energy directly, but that’s not something that happens overnight,” said Brian Janous, director of energy strategy for Microsoft. “I feel good about where we are right now.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Burrows in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pui-Wing Tam at email@example.com Reed Stevenson