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Cloud providers not green enough says Greenpeace

Greenpeace report says cloud providers not selecting clean energy sources

Cloud providers are ramping up cloud data centres, but not thinking about the sources of energy used to power them say Greenpeace.
Cloud providers are ramping up cloud data centres, but not thinking about the sources of energy used to power them say Greenpeace.

Greenpeace has published a new report that attempts to identify the level of green energy usage by leading cloud providers.

The ‘How clean is your cloud?' report says that as cloud providers rush to build out their data centres, too few of them are considering how the electricity that they consume is generated, with too much reliance on sources of energy that are not considered environmentally friendly.

Gary Cook, author of the report for Greenpeace International, wrote: The growth and scale of investment in the cloud is truly mind-blowing, with estimates of a 50-fold increase in the amount of digital information by 2020 and nearly half a trillion in investment in the coming year.

"Since electricity plays a critical role in the cost structure of companies that use the cloud, there have been dramatic strides made in improving the energy efficiency design of the facilities and the thousands of computers that go inside. However, despite significant improvements in efficiency, the exponential growth in cloud computing far outstrips these energy savings. Companies must look not only at how efficiently they are consuming electricity, but also the sources of electricity that they are choosing," Cook said.

The report singles out Amazon, Apple and Microsoft as companies that are building out cloud data centres without to their sources of electricity, and are using ‘dirty energy' to power their clouds.

Greenpeace has ranked companies on its Clean Energy Index, which is based on estimated megawatt demand for each of a cloud provider's facilities, and the percentage of that energy that comes from renewable sources.

Amazon, Apple and Microsoft all scored from 13-15% on the index, with scores affected by poor disclosure of energy consumption and sourcing, and the fact that these companies are locating their data centres in areas that predominantly use coal and nuclear energy sources. Apple has disputed Greenpeace's figures for its power consumption, and pointed to its new data centre in the US that will draw 60% of its power from solar power and bio-gas.

Oracle also ranked low on the Clean Energy Index, scoring just 7.1%, due to a projected heavy reliance on coal power sources, lack of transparency on energy usage, and lack of commitment to advocacy or targets for renewable energy usage.

Saleforce.com was lowest overall, with 4%, as its model, which relies 100% on leasing data centre capacity, means that tracking renewable energy usage is very difficult.

Yahoo! and Google were both praised for prioritizing renewable energy for their cloud expansion, and support for policies to drive greater renewable energy investment. Facebook was also noted for commitment to renewable energy and its new data centre in Sweden that can be fully powered by renewable energy.

Greenpeace is calling on cloud companies to look at a number of ways to support renewable energy, such as power purchase agreements, where they make direct agreements with renewable power generating companies; onsite renewable energy sources such as solar power; direct power offsets or offsets with local communities and advocacy on green energy.

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