Apple tops Greenpeace clean energy report

Wednesday 11 January 2017 | 11:02 CET | News

Apple is still the greenest tech company in the world, according to the Greenpeace Clicking Clean 2017 report looking at renewable energy. Both Apple (83% index score) and Google (56%) continue to lead the sector in matching their growth with an equivalent or larger supply of renewable energy, and both companies continue to use their influence to push governments as well as their utility and IT sector vendors to increase access to renewable energy for their operations. Facebook (67%) also did well.

Switch, new to the report this year, scored among the highest for any class of company and is the definitive leader among colocation operators for its efforts to transition its data centre fleet to renewables as fast as possible through a combination of renewable energy procurement and aggressive advocacy.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) took some important steps in the past year, including promising leadership in supporting clean energy policy. But 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, Greenpeace noted.

Video streaming is a tremendous driver of data demand, with 63 percent of global internet traffic in 2015. The figure is expected to reach 80 percent by 2020. Netflix alone already accounts for over one-third of internet traffic in North America and is in the midst of a worldwide expansion. The transition to the cloud could in fact increase the demand for coal and other fossil fuels because of the dramatic growth in new data centre construction by cloud and colocation companies such as AWS and Digital Realty in Virginia and other areas that have some of the lowest percentages of renewable electricity in the US.

Faced with a lack of access to renewables in monopoly markets, there are increasing signs that some companies are resorting to status quo shortcuts to reach their claims of being renewably powered, increasing the demand for dirty energy. The continued lack of transparency by many companies regarding their energy demand and the supply of electricity powering their data centers remains a significant threat to the sector’s long-term sustainability. The least transparent companies such as AWS, Tencent, LG CNS, and Baidu are also among the most dominant in their respective markets.

Greenpeace added that advocacy for renewable energy is still needed in South Korea, where utility monopolies dominate the energy market, and almost all power comes from fossil fuels. However, progress is being made in Gangwon Province, where the provincial government recently decided to build the first 100 percent renewably powered data center complex in Chuncheon City.

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