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January 11, 2017updated 25 Jan 2017 3:30pm

15 of the worst companies for renewable energy – Greenpeace report

Greenpeace has released its Clicking Clean report, evaluating the renewable energy usage of the world's biggest IT and cloud companies. CBR looks at those making the 'dirty' list.

By Ellie Burns

The drive to switch to renewable energy has been gathering pace in recent times, with big names such as Microsoft, Adobe and Etsy pledging to go 100% renewable as they focus on their environmental footprint. Facebook was the first big name to promise to go green back in 2011, followed  by Apple and Google in 2012 and Amazon and Microsoft in 2014.

Now, over 60% of the US Fortune 100 and 43% of the US Fortune 500 have adopted renewable targets, with companies looking to be recognised for being ‘responsible’ with their energy footprint.

100% Renewable energy committments

As companies look to deliver on their renewable goals, Greenpeace has released a report which gives an insight into which companies are ‘clean’ and which ones are ‘dirty’. To evaluate performance, Greenpeace established the Clean Energy Index in response to the lack of useful metrics and publicly available data needed to evaluate and compare the energy footprints of major cloud providers and their respective data centres.

Greenpeace slammed the many companies who are unwilling to provide basic information about their energy consumption, with the Index set up to answer the basic questions: how much dirty energy is being used, and which companies are choosing clean energy to power the cloud?

In order to build the index, Greenpeace identified two main inputs from a representative sample of their most recent (five years or less) infrastructure investments. Those inputs were: Estimated size of electricity demand of each facility (in megawatts); and amount of renewable electricity being used to power it (by percentage). Companies were also given an overall grade weighted on the following: Transparency (20%); Renewable Energy Commitment & Siting Policy(20%); Energy Efficiency & GHG Mitigation (10%); Renewable Energy Procurement, including current energy mix (30%); and Advocacy (20%).

Drawing upon the results from the Greenpeace Clicking Clean report, CBR gives you the ‘dirty’ companies not delivering on renewable energy.

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Renewable energy baidu

Baidu uses colocation and owns self-built data centres.  Baidu did not respond to Greenpeace’s  request for company’s energy data.

The report found that Asian internet giants have a major barrier in the form of access to renewable energy from monopoly utilities. The report warns that without key policy changes, the rapid growth of the internet in Asia, specifically East Asia, will be powered by coal and other dirty sources.



Renewable energy tencent

The company is running more than 58 data centres in mainland China. Tencent has also invested in data centres in Hong Kong, Toronto, and Europe. Tencent did not respond to Greenpeace’s request for company’s energy data.

A lack of transparency was noted among Chinese internet giants, with the report highlighting a ‘code of silence’ regarding energy performance. The report said: “Neither the public nor customers are able to obtain any information about their electricity use and CO2 target”



Renewable energy samsung

South Korea was recognised in the report for rapidly becoming a key location for global cloud players. The South Korean government has set a target of providing 13.4% of overall electricity through renewable energy by 2035, however, this is an insufficient target in comparison to the EU’s 20% target by 2020.

According to the report: “Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), the monopoly electricity provider in South Korea has a generation mix with only 1.1% renewable electricity, with fossil fuel and nuclear power representing over 90% of its generation mix.”



Renewable energy oracle

Oracle has performed consistently near the bottom of Greenpeace’s evaluations of US data centre operators since 2012, with little signs of improvement this year. Oracle’s renewed focus to become more of cloud focused company to compete with AWS has led to rapid expansion in Virginia and Chicago that rely almost exclusively on dirty sources of electricity.



Renewable energy spotifySpotify is one of the largest audio streaming companies in the world, with 75 million active users globally. Spotify relies on Google’s data centres to deliver its music.


Donald Trump makes an appearance in the report, with the report naming him in a warning about the entrenched political power of the utilities. The report said: “This is particularly true in the United States following the election of Donald Trump, who has promised to roll back climate policies and revive the use of coal. Sustained and vocal advocacy by corporations, who recognize the ecological and economic imperative for an aggressive transition to renewable sources of electricity, has never been more important in the United States.”



Renewable energy twitter

Twitter hosts its growing digital footprint in colocation data centres in Georgia, California and Virginia, where it recently expanded with a 21 MW lease in 2014. Twitter has not provided Greenpeace or the public with any information about its energy footprint.


The likes of Alibaba and Amazon also rank on the dirty list – see why on the next page.



Renewable energy alibaba

Alibaba is the world’s largest retail platform, running dozens of cloud computing and colocation data centres in China. They are also rapidly expanding data centres operations overseas, such as Singapore and the US. Alibaba did not respond to Greenpeace’s request for its energy data.



Renewable energy wordpress is a blogging platform owned by Automattic, which operates data centres in 13 colocation facilities in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. Its largest colocation vendor is Equinix, along with DataBank, CoreSite, and Verizon.



Renewable energy amazon

Amazon, or AWS, was slammed for its lack of transparency. “The world’s biggest cloud computer company remains almost completely non-transparent about the energy footprint of its massive operations,” said the report. “Among the global cloud providers, only AWS still refuses to make public basic details on the energy performance and environmental impact associated with its operations.”

The report was keen to praise Amazon for its increased renewable energy advocacy, with the company using its influence to push for renewable energy policy.



Renewable energy netflix

One of the biggest drivers of consumer data consumption is video streaming.  Netflix continues to be the biggest video content provider, accounting for 35.2% of downstream traffic. Netflix has recently expanded to six new European countries, accounting for over 20.0% of network traffic in the U.K. and Ireland. Netflix heavily relies on Amazon Web Services for delivering its content to its customers, along with OpenConnect, the Netflix content delivery network.



Renewable energy vevo

The report hit home the huge energy footprint which is needed to keep things up and running day-to day. The report said: “The energy footprint of the IT sector is already estimated to consume approximately 7% of global electricity.1 With an anticipated threefold increase in global internet traffic by 2020, the internet’s energy footprint is expected to rise further, fuelled both by our individual consumption of data and by the spread of the digital age to more of the world’s population, from 3 billion to over 4 billion globally.


Those hosted by AWS feature heavily on the list – including one of the biggest social sites. Read more on the next page.



Renewable energy pandora

Pandora is one of the largest online music streaming platforms, operating in North America, Australia and New Zealand. Pandora’s data centres are located in colocation facilities operated by Equinix in San Jose, CA and Ashburn, VA as well as by Digital Realty Trust in Chicago, IL and Oakland, CA.



Renewable energy soundcloud is an online audio streaming and social media platform that allows users to download and share music and other audio creations. SoundCloud relies heavily on AWS for the processing and storage of its audio recordings.



Renewable energy pinterest

Pinterest, an online platform which allows users to curate and share images, relies on Amazon Web Services for delivering its content to its users.



Renewable energy Reddit

Reddit, the widely visited social networking and news site, appears to be hosted by Amazon Web Services.



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