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Amazon failing on renewable energy commitment, says Greenpeace

Report says AWS has failed to invest in renewable energy sources for 'Data Centre Alley'

Amazon has not sourced any renewable energy for its Virginia data centres in the past two years, according to Greenpeace.
Amazon has not sourced any renewable energy for its Virginia data centres in the past two years, according to Greenpeace.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is reneging on pledges to use renewable energy for its data centres, according to Greenpeace.

The cloud giant committed to 100% use of renewable energy sources for its data centres in 2014, but now the environmental pressure group says that Amazon is predominantly utilising fossil fuels, particularly in the US state of Virginia.

Virginia is home to ‘Data Centre Alley', the world's highest concentration of data centres which serves as much as 70% of the world's internet traffic. Major technology companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, along with hosting providers like Digital Realty, have facilities in the region, pushing total power demand of existing data centres and those under development approaching 4.5 gigawatts.

A new report from Greenpeace says that both the web companies, inparticular Amazon, which has its core global infrastructure in the state, and the local power companies, have failed to develop renewable energy sources to meet this demand. AWS accounts for 1.7 gigawatts of power demand across 55 Virginia data centres operating or under construction, representing an increase of nearly 60% in the past two years alone.

AWS has added over 600 megawatts of additional data centre capacity in Virginia, with zero additional renewable energy supply in the past two years, which Greenpeace says shows that AWS no longer appears to be honouring its commitment to 100% renewables.

The report, ‘Clicking Clean Virginia - The Dirty Energy Powering Data Center Alley', says that the growing demand for power in Virginia is not being met with renewable sources, which account for less than 5% of supply in the state. Dominion Energy, the state's largest electricity provider uses only 4% renewables, and plans to increase this to just 10% by 2030. Greenpeace says that rather than invest in renewable energy, the company is using increased demand from data centres from companies such as Amazon to justify investment into fossil fuel sources, including a $7bn pipeline to deliver fracked gas to Virginia.

"Despite Amazon's public commitment to renewable energy, the world's largest cloud computing company is hoping no one will notice that it's still powering its corner of the internet with dirty energy," said Greenpeace USA Senior Corporate Campaigner Elizabeth Jardim. "Unless Amazon and other cloud giants in Virginia change course, our growing use of the internet could lead to more pipelines, more pollution and more problems for our climate."