Categories: Green-ITInnovation

AWS Told To Build A Greener Cloud As Renewable Pressure Mounts

Hot on the heels of AWS receiving an open letter from a host of customers urging the company to reveal its energy usage, a new campaign group has been set up to push the cloud computing service to shift to clean energy sources for its servers by 2020.

Launched by environmental lobby group Green America, the campaign is called “Amazon: Build a Cleaner Cloud” and argues that in its focus on climate change and low-carbon energy use, Amazon lags behind most companies – including Apple, Google, and Facebook – that operate large-scale data centres.

Green America was founded in 1982, and promotes what it calls ethical consumerism. Its new campaign is calling on Amazon to power its servers by 100 percent renewable energy by 2020, whilst ceasing construction of new data centres that rely on coal. The campaign also wants Amazon to submit complete and accurate data to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

“Contributing to climate change”

Green America’s campaigns director Elizabeth O’Connell said: “Every day, tens of millions of consumers are watching movies, reading news articles, and posting to social media sites that all use Amazon Web Services. What they don’t realise is that by using Amazon Web Services they are contributing to climate change. Amazon needs to take action now to increase its use of renewables to 100 percent by 2020, so that consumers won’t have to choose between using the internet and protecting the planet.”

But AWS’ head of cloud Jeff Barr said in a blog post this week that AWS remains focused on working towards its long-term commitment to 100 percent renewable energy usage.

“In May 2015, we updated our Sustainable Energy webpage to announce that the AWS global infrastructure is powered by approximately 25 percent renewable energy today, and that we expect to reach 40 percent by the end of 2016,” said Barr. “We have several additional developments planned in the next 12 -18 months to help us get there and encourage our customers to check back on our sustainability page often to watch our progress‎. The environmental argument for cloud computing is already surprisingly strong and I expect that the overall equation will just continue to improve going forward.”

However, Green America claims that AWS lags behind its competitors such as Microsoft and Google when it comes to being green. Green America’s executive co-director Todd Larsen said: “Unlike most of its competitors, it also fails to publish a corporate responsibility or sustainability reporting, and it fails to disclose its emissions and impacts to the Carbon Disclosure Project. While it is clear that Amazon’s climate emissions and overall environmental impacts are huge, the public has no way of knowing just how large they are or Amazon’s plans for reducing them. We are calling on Amazon.com to take steps to be transparent about its emissions and to rapidly move to renewable energy.”

Greenpeace

Indeed, last month’s Greenpeace report on cloud computing argued that Amazon lacks transparency in its renewable energy targets, and the firm doesn’t have the same commitments as its rivals in working towards a future not reliant on coal.

TechWeekEurope asked Amazon Web Services for comment on the matter, and was promptly directed to a page on the AWS website claiming that “AWS has a long-term commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure footprint”.

On Wednesday June 10, Amazon will hold its annual general meetings in Seattle, where shareholders are reportedly asking the company to issue a sustainability report.

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Ben Sullivan

Ben covers web and technology giants such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft and their impact on the cloud computing industry, whilst also writing about data centre players and their increasing importance in Europe. He also covers future technologies such as drones, aerospace, science, and the effect of technology on the environment.

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