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Apple, Facebook and Google go green but Amazon loves dirty energy

James Temperton
2 Apr 2014
Amazon Web Services
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Greenpeace report slams Amazon for opting for coal and gas while other web giants lead shift to renewable energy

The internet is becoming increasingly green thanks to the environmental efforts of Apple, Facebook and Google but Amazon continues to burn coal and gas to build its online empire.

A new report by Greenpeace has revealed that while most major web companies are helping the internet become greener, Amazon is still belching out pollution. Greenpeace looked at the energy policies of 19 major internet companies and evaluated the energy supply chains of more than 300 data centres.

The environmental organisation is urging companies to use green and renewable energy sources to power the internet and ease global warming. If the internet were a country its electricity demand would rank it sixth, according to the report. Industry experts estimate that internet data will triple from 2012 to 2017, causing the internet's energy demands to skyrocket.

Amazon is one of the worst offenders, with Greenpeace deriding the company for continuing to buy "dirty energy".

Amazon Web Services, which hosts popular companies like Pinterest, Netflix, Spotify, Tumblr, AirBnB, Yelp and Vine, only gets 15 per cent of its electricity from clean energy. Coal powers 28 per cent of the company's cloud with nuclear and gas accounting for 27 and 25 per cent respectively. Greenpeace also criticised Amazon for a lack of transparency over its environmental policies, with the company refusing to reveal details about its energy footprint.

Greenpeace said that Amazon was fuelling an "increased use and construction" of coal and gas-burning plants in Virginia and jeopardizing clean energy growth in Oregon. Twitter was also criticised in the report with the company refusing to reveal details of its energy policies.

"Twitter does not share any details about its energy footprint, and has made no efforts to procure cleaner electricity, in stark contrast to its social media rival Facebook", Greenpeace said in a statement.

The report praised Apple for leading the way in green and renewable energy. The company operates the largest privately owned solar installation in the US at its North Carolina data centre and its iCloud service is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

"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, senior IT analyst at Greenpeace.

Greenpeace said that five of the 19 companies it surveyed are committed to operating with 100 per cent renewable energy. Facebook has pushed one of its major electricity providers to invest $1.9bn on new onshore wind turbines to power data centres, while Google also uses wind energy to provide electricity for Gmail and YouTube.

In the UK, Rackspace's data centres run on 100 per cent renewables, as will Salesforce's new UK data centre opening later this year. BT, which operates data centres all over the UK, has signed a utility contract for 100 per cent renewable energy.

Greenpeace is now calling on all major internet companies to commit to make the web greener. It has demanded greater transparency from companies on where they source electricity from as well as commitments to become 100 renewably powered.

The full report, 'Clicking Clean: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet' is available to read on the Greenpeace website.

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