Despite making a commitment to use more renewable energy to power its datacenters, Amazon was blasted in a new report today from Greenpeace. The 2015 update to the group’s “Clicking Clean” report argues that Amazon’s commitments are laudable, but the company doesn’t offer enough information about its energy use to allow proper evaluation of its progress.
The company was given a “F” grade for its transparency, and it scored a 23 percent on Greenpeace’s Clean Energy Index. That’s a far cry from the company’s other competitors in the public cloud: Microsoft scored 39 percent, while Google scored 46 percent. Apple swept the board with a perfect 100 percent score, keeping up its position at the top of Greenpeace’s report.
“Amazon’s adoption of a 100% renewable energy goal, while potentially significant, lacks basic transparency and, unlike similar commitments from Apple, Facebook or Google, does not yet appear to be guiding Amazon’s investment decisions toward renewable energy and away from coal,” the report said.
Microsoft, meanwhile was criticized for not scaling its renewable energy investments to keep pace with the rapid growth of its Azure cloud platform. In order to fuel its continued geographic expansion Microsoft needed to compromise on the source of the energy its datacenters used.
The company’s cloud services technically remain carbon neutral because of unbundled renewable energy credits and carbon offsets, but Greenpeace classified that as a “wrong turn” compared to other companies’ purchases of renewable energy on the same grid their facilities use.
Apple remained the darling of Greenpeace’s report thanks to the company’s extensive reporting of its renewable energy efforts, and its moves to secure renewable energy sources for each of the new datacenter facilities it has built or begun constructing. The company has been forging ahead with massive sustainability investments, going so far as to spend $850 million on a 1,300 acre solar farm in California.
Update: An Amazon spokesperson provided GeekWire with the following statement via email:
It’s unfortunate that Greenpeace’s report is inaccurate and misguided again. As has been the case the last couple years, Greenpeace reports inaccurate data about the energy consumption and renewable mix of AWS’s global infrastructure. We’ve told Greenpeace it’s wrong, but they chose to publish it anyway. We continue to publish data about our actual energy mix and new developments toward achieving our long term goal of 100% renewable on our Sustainable Energy webpage.
The report also chooses to focus on certain hot buttons Greenpeace has, but causes them to miss the forest for the trees. A quick read of James Hamilton’s blog makes the point in more detail, but an analysis on green energy that fails to prioritize resource utilization and energy efficiency, effectively ignoring where the biggest gains in the datacenter industry are being made (moving from many under-utilized, on-premises datacenters to fewer highly utilized cloud computing datacenters) is a misguided analysis.
We remain committed to providing our Infrastructure technology platform in as environmentally friendly a fashion as possible. In the last year, we’ve taken several significant steps to achieve our long-term commitment of 100% renewable energy usage for the AWS global infrastructure footprint – with three carbon-neutral AWS Regions (Oregon, GovCloud, and Frankfurt) and by teaming with Pattern Development to build and operate the 150 megawatt Amazon Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge) in Indiana. More recently, we updated our Sustainable Energy webpage to announce that the AWS global infrastructure is running on approximately 25% renewable energy today, and that we expect to reach 40% by 2016. We have several additional developments planned in the next 12 -18 months to help us get there and encourage our customers to check back to our sustainability website often to watch our progress.