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Facebook commits to 25% clean energy use

Social network reveals carbon emission data and commits to cleaner energy

Facebook aims to take 25% of its power from clean, renewable sources by 2015.
Facebook aims to take 25% of its power from clean, renewable sources by 2015.

Facebook has announced that it plans to gain 25% of the energy it uses for its operations from clean, renewable energy sources by 2015.

The company revealed the energy target, along with its current energy usage and profile in a blog post yesterday.

In line with many web companies, Facebook is consuming very large amounts of energy in its data centres, as it expands facilities to meet user demand. Data centres account for around 1.3% of global power consumption, around 31GW in 2011, and companies are coming under pressure to commit to cleaner energy sources.

Facebook also disclosed that it used 532KWh in 2011, with 23% of its energy drawn from clean and renewable sources, 27% from coal, 17% natural gas, 13% nuclear and 20% uncategorized sources.

The social network's output of greenhouse gasses, including CO2, CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent, which includes greenhouse gases CO2, CH4, N2O, and HFCs), totalled approximately 285,000 metric tonnes, or the equivalent of 269 grams of greenhouse gas per active Facebook user. In comparison, Google produced 1.5 million tons of CO2 in 2010.

Facebook also reiterated its commitment to clean energy, stating that it prefers to locate data centres in locations with access to clean and renewable energy sources; a commitment to engaging with environmental organizations, our industry peers and our utility providers to advocate for more clean and renewable energy sources and including a renewable energy component to every new data centre that it builds, to increase its understanding of how renewable sources can best be used.

"We recognize that this data is just one slice of our overall environmental footprint, but we think it's an important starting point. We'll continue to track and share this data, and we'll also work to understand and share other aspects of our footprint where we can. Our goal is to understand where we have the most opportunity-and responsibility-to minimize our long-term environmental impact," Facebook said in a blog post.

"In the short-term, reducing our impact and significantly altering our energy mix will be challenging. The reality is that as a fast-growing company our carbon footprint and energy mix may get worse before they get better. When we bring our Lulea, Sweden, data center online in 2014, we expect to see a steady increase in the clean and renewable sources powering our data center operations. And we've set a company goal to derive at least 25% of our energy mix from clean and renewable sources by 2015. We know this is going to be a stretch for us, and we're still figuring out exactly what it will take to get there.

Environmental pressure group Greenpeace, which has been running a campaign under the banner "Unfriend Coal" to get Facebook to use cleaner energy, welcomed the move.

"Facebook has committed to being fully renewably powered, and today's detailed disclosure and announcement of a clean energy target shows that the company means business and wants the world to follow its progress," said Gary Cook, Greenpeace international senior IT analyst.

"Unfortunately, the transparency Facebook exhibited today is still rare among companies who are racing to build our online world, where some of the largest companies behind the cloud, such as Amazon, still refuse to disclose any information about their energy use and mix."