AWS slammed for secrecy over renewable energy goal

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AWS slammed for secrecy over renewable energy goal

Greenpeace sceptical of data centre sustainability pledge.

Amazon Web Services has committed to reaching a goal of 100 percent renewable energy usage within its global infrastructure footprint, but its pledge has been slammed by Greenpeace after the company refused to provide details on how it would achieve the target.

Following the lead of Google, Facebook and Apple, all of whom seek to move to majority renewable energy usage within their vast infrastructure empires, AWS this week announced it had a “long-term” target for its global network of data centres to run entirely off renewable energy. 

The company introduced its first “carbon-neutral” region in its Oregon facility in the US in 2011, and recently added a new data centre in Frankfurt, Germany to that list.

But the company has withheld any details regarding a roadmap or how it intends to reach its renewable energy target. The company refused to tell iTnews whether it was running its facilities on renewable energy, or buying carbon offsets to make its 'carbon neutral' claim.

Greenpeace has previously called out AWS for continuing to power its data centres with polluting energy sources and labelled it the “dirtiest major cloud computing provider”.

While applauding AWS’ new commitment as a “potential breakthrough”, Greenpeace today continued to criticise AWS’ lack of transparency around its path to the target, especially given the openness of Apple, Google and Facebook in similar efforts.

In order to show its customers its pledge was serious, the not-for-profit demanded AWS provide a “detailed snapshot of its energy and greenhouse gas footprint, and commit to providing regular updates as it changes”; lead an effort to insist utilities in the “dirty” US-East region offer IT companies renewable energy options; and detail what it defines as “renewables”.

“AWS is the biggest public cloud company in the world right now," Greenpeace senior climate and energy campaigner David Pomerantz told iTnews.

"If their announcement means they are in fact going to be switching their operations to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, they can very quickly become one of the catalysts for clean energy - empowering the internet and much of the offline world as well.

“The question that we can’t really know the answer to right now is just what this means and how serious AWS is."

Pomerantz called on AWS to publish detailed information on what type of electricity it is using in its ‘carbon-neutral’ regions of Oregon and Frankfurt, given companies have used the term in the past to refer to the purchasing of carbon offsets rather than the use of renewable energy.

“Those are words that in other instances have occasionally been used to refer to buying carbon offsets instead of procuring renewable energy," he said.

"We don’t really know what Amazon is doing there, and that’s a target place for them to start increasing transparency.”

He said while its use of hydropower in Oregon was “certainly better than coal, gas or nuclear power”, AWS needed to detail its plans to power its facilities in that region when the hydropower runs out of capacity.

An AWS spokesperson told iTnews the company was not sharing the targeted date for reaching its 100 percent renewable energy goal or how it would reach the target.

The spokesperson claimed the data used by Greenpeace in its its April “Clicking Clean” report on energy consumption within technology companies was incorrect, but the lobby group continued to “ignore the facts and irresponsibly publicise it”.

AWS declined to provide any alternate data, but said it was committed to working hard to offer cloud services in an “environmentally friendly way in all of our regions”.

“AWS operates efficient and highly utilised data centres across ten different regions globally, two of which use 100 percent carbon-free power. We like offering customers the choice of being able to run carbon-free.”

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