Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Greenpeace pushes Facebook to abandon coal- powered electricity, while Intel tops the US green power rankings.

Greenpeace last week put out a challenge to Facebook, calling on it to commit, by Earth Day (April 22nd), to end its use of coal-based electricity.  

It’s the latest move in the NGO’s attempt to get Facebook to move away from the use of coal, a campaign that apparently already has 600,000 supporters. Greenpeace wants Mark Zuckerberg to commit to:

  • Increase Facebook’s use of clean energy;

  • Develop a plan to mitigate the company’s climate footprint and to become coal free by 2021;

  • Educate Facebook users about how the company powers its services;

  • Advocate for clean energy at a local, national and international level.

“Facebook has become a household name used every day by millions of people; unfortunately, it’s relying on 19th century dirty coal power to deliver its 21st century services,” said Greenpeace energy campaigner Casey Harrell. “People from all over the world are asking the website they love to lead the Energy Revolution by un-friending coal. Will Mark Zuckerberg rise to the challenge?”

In fact it wasn’t so long ago (at the beginning of January) that the US Environmental Protection Agency published its latest quarterly rankings of the annual green power purchases of leading organisations in the US.

Intel continues to lead the rankings, with over 2.5bn kWh of green electricity purchased in the last year – considerably more than any other company. This is up from 1.4bn kWh at the last quarter rankings and now accounts for 88% of the company’s total electricity use.

Other ICT companies in the top 50 are Cisco down a place in 11th with 270m kWh purchased - 29% of power used, Motorola 30th (119m kWh – 32%), Dell 35th (115m kWh – 28%) and Sprint Nextel 45th (88m kWh - 3%). The full top 50 ranking is here.


Arguably a company like Facebook is in the frontline of Green IT. Cloud computing is heralded as an opportunity for IT to become greener, but as I’ve discussed on these pages in the past, it very much depends on who’s providing the service and how.  Facebook is a very successful company with vast data centres and in such a role the organisation has a responsibility to set an example to the industry by making its facilities as green as possible, which includes using green power where it can. Not only that, but it should ideally be advocating energy efficiency and the use of clean power.

As for the EPA’s rankings of green power purchases, well they give a good indication of who’s doing what, but the rankings take into account the purchase of renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). RECS tend to distort the market, through effectively paying for the extra cost of renewable generation, rather than for the power itself. Interestingly, in the previous rankings Dell was shown as purchasing 129% of its electricity from green sources, reflecting its REC purchases. The company now seems to have dropped the practice.

© The Green IT Review

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