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Clicking Clean Report: Data Center Operators Lagging in Race to Build a “Green Internet”

27 April 2017
Clicking Green Post on Cloudscene

There’s every chance you’re in a race you didn’t knowingly enter. Orchestrated by global environmental campaigner, Greenpeace, the race to build a “green internet” continues to gain momentum each year their Clicking Clean Report is released.

Highlighting those who are running, those who are walking and those who are yet to leave the starting line; Greenpeace is pushing the global IT sector for greater transparency and commitment to 100% renewable energy targets.

Consuming approximately 7% of the world’s electricity, the energy performance of data center operators caught the interest of Greenpeace in 2010 who began benchmarking the energy efficiency of the major players including Equinix, Digital Realty, Telecity and Oracle.

Renewable energy tracking commenced shortly after, when Facebook became the first of the tech giants to make a “meaningful and long-term commitment to be 100% renewably powered” in 2011. Apple and Google followed suit the following year.

Timeline of 100% Renewable Energy Targets

Green Energy Clicking Clean Report

         Source: Clicking Clean: Who is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet (2017)

With global internet traffic projected to increase threefold by 2020, the internet’s energy footprint will continue to grow rapidly which is the driving force behind the #clickclean initiative.

Explosive growth in digital consumption is described in the report as driving “massive new investments in digital infrastructure, particularly power hungry data centers”. Further labeling data centers as the factories of the digital age, Greenpeace warns that data center electricity demand alone could reach 13% of global electricity consumption by 2030.

Main Components of Electricity Consumption for the IT Sector

Electricity Consumption of the IT Sector
Whether its Greenpeace, customer/shareholder demand or the lure of long-term cost savings, the topic of renewable energy investment is making its way onto the boardroom agendas of telecommunications and data center operators worldwide.

Having said that, the report acknowledges that renewable energy investment is not a one size fits all strategy. Budget, operating market and company size can be major constraints. However, a commitment to the issue of energy efficiency begins with transparency and Greenpeace is pushing for all data center operators to publish their energy data to demonstrate that the company takes its carbon footprint seriously.

The 2017 Clicking Clean report reveals that cloud computing companies have lagged behind the likes of Apple and Facebook with many citing competitive concerns. However, there are some that have broken the general code of silence and are openly reporting and supplying energy performance data on request eg. Akamai.

According to the report, Chinese internet giants, Baidu and Alibaba are effectively silent on energy performance, refusing to supply any information to their customers, let alone the public.

It’s no surprise that there is also no love between Greenpeace and the Trump Administration after the US President’s Executive Order in March which looks likely to roll back on environmental policies established to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Politics aside, it’s clear there are some definite leaders in the race for a “green internet” and those that have a long way to go. Here’s how the major data center operators and cloud service providers stacked up:

Operator Overall Score Energy Transparency Renewable Energy Commitment
Apple A A A
Facebook A A A
Switch A A A
Google A B A
Akamai B A A
Salesforce B B A
Equinix B B B
Microsoft B B B
Digital Realty C B C
IBM C C B
Rackspace C C B
HP C D B
Amazon Web Services C F D
Oracle D D D
Alibaba D F F

For more information on this topic, download a copy of the 2017 Clicking Clean Report or check out our previous post “Does Going Green Really Matter to the Modern Data Center?”

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