Apple Must Do More for Renewable Data Center Energy: Greenpeace

Apple’s North Carolina data center.

Apple has made some big commitments to clean energy for its data centers. Greenpeace wants the company to demonstrate those commitments are more than PR lip service.

Indeed, a new Greenpeace report exhibits some skepticism about Apple’s intention to increase the use of renewable energy in its data centers to 100 percent. “This new ambition to be ‘coal free’ is welcome news for the 125 million current iCloud users, and represents a significant improvement in Apple’s energy choices,” read the report. “However, many details and questions remain about how Apple will achieve its 100 percent renewable goal.”

Greenpeace calls out two of the company’s three data centers as operating in regions powered to a large extent by coal, which would compel Apple to make a “significant new investment or a clear decision.” Adjustments to the “electricity supply chain” for Apple’s data center in North Carolina “are not likely to occur overnight.”

Greenpeace is pushing a “clean up the cloud” campaign that targets not only Apple, but also Microsoft and Amazon. “Every day, tons of asthma-inducing, climate destroying coal pollution is thrown in the air to keep the Internet humming,” reads the petition on the organization’s Website. Indeed, while tech giants around the world are pouring more resources into environmentally cleaner data centers, it remains to be seen whether a push by Greenpeace can drive some of those companies to become entirely driven by renewable energy.

In Apple’s case, Greenpeace suggests the company choose a renewable-powered local utility for its Oregon data center, as opposed to purchasing renewable energy credits from Pacific Power (which apparently uses coal). It also wants Apple to switch over entirely to renewable electricity from onsite generation for its North Carolina facility, only using grid power for backup, as well as invest more directly in renewable energy generation in the state. (Biogas and other renewable resources are already on the agenda for the North Carolina site, according to reports.)

“Ultimately, if Apple wants to get serious about its commitment to a coal-free iCloud, the most important thing it can do is use its buying leverage with [North Carolina’s] Duke Energy and other utilities to push for cleaner electricity options,” the report added. “Just as Apple has been widely asked to actively engage with other aspects of its supply chain to push for fairer [labor] standards, Apple must do the same with its electricity supply chain.”

Apple’s cloud-based initiatives, including iCloud, have increased the company’s need for data centers capable of handling massive amounts of data, with its burgeoning App Store and media-content hub contributing to the load. Apple already makes a big deal of the energy-efficient technology present in its data centers, including real-time energy monitoring and analytics for its North Carolina facility.


Image: Apple