Greenpeace Slams ‘Dirty’ Amazon Web Services, Twitter

For years Greenpeace berated the tech industry over its environmental impact, but not anymore. In a new report called “Clicking Clean”, the environmental pressure group applauded the progress made by the leading tech firms including Apple, Google and Facebook in their adoption of renewable energy sources for their respective data centres.

But it also pointed to the industry’s bad boys, and singled out Amazon in particular.

Renewable Progress

In its report, Greenpeace highlighted the growing impact of the Internet on the world’s population. It predicted that global online population will reach 50 percent of the world’s projected population, moving from 2.3 billion in 2012 to an expected 3.6 billion people by 2017.

The organisation warned that the rapid growth of cloud applications and the Internet has triggered an unprecedented global demand for electricity, which is expected to increase by 60 percent or more by 2020.

It said that the energy appetite of the Internet continues to outstrip energy efficiency gains, and pointed to the fact that the Internet’s growing energy footprint has so far mostly been concentrated in places where energy is the dirtiest.

“But there is good news to report,” said Greenpeace. “Leading data center operators have taken key steps toward building a green Internet, particularly those companies that have committed to build a 100 percent renewably powered platform.”

But the group did not pull any punches when it reported on the tech industry’s bad boys, and Amazon felt the full force of its wrath.

Dirty Amazon?

“Unfortunately, despite the leadership and innovation demonstrated by green Internet pioneers, other companies lag far behind, with little sense of urgency, choosing to paper over their growing dirty energy footprints with status quo solutions such as renewable energy credits and carbon offsets while rapidly expanding their infrastructure,” said Greenpeace.

“Other Internet companies have refused to pay even lip service to sustainability, and are simply buying dirty energy straight from the grid. Those companies, most notably Amazon Web Services, are choosing how to power their infrastructure based solely on lowest electricity prices, without consideration to the impact their growing electricity footprints have on human health or the environment,” it said

“Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provides the infrastructure for a significant part of the Internet, remains among the dirtiest and least transparent companies in the sector, far behind its major competitors, with zero reporting of its energy or environmental footprint to any source or stakeholder. Twitter lags in many of the same areas,” Greenpeace said.

But Amazon told TechweekEurope it strongly disagreed with Greenpeace’s ‘inaccurate’ conclusions.

“We agree with Greenpeace that technology leaders should help safeguard the environment by implementing both efficient use and clean sources of energy. However Greenpeace’s report, “Clicking Green,” misses the mark by using false assumptions on AWS operations and inaccurate data on AWS energy consumption. We provided this feedback to Greenpeace prior to publishing their report,” an Amazon Web Services spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“We work hard on our own, and together with our power providers all over the world, to offer AWS Cloud services in an environmentally friendly way in all of our Regions.  AWS operates efficient and highly utilized data centres across 10 different Regions globally, two of which (Oregon and GovCloud Regions) use 100% carbon-free power.  We like offering customers the choice of being able to run carbon-free, and we love doing it without charging a premium over other North American regions,” said the AWS spokesperson.

Good boys

Greenpeace did meanwhile praise Google, Facebook and Apple, for their renewable energy policies.

Google was singled out for being in the leadership position in building a renewably powered Internet. Facebook was also praised for its commitment to build green networks, with its decision to locate a data centre in Iowa driving the largest purchase of wind turbines in the world.

And Greenpeace said that Apple is the most improved company since its last full report, and has “shown itself to be the most innovative and most aggressive in pursuing its commitment to be 100 percent renewably powered.”

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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