Analyst says energy efficiency is great but it is not enough
15 May 2012 by Yevgeniy Sverdlik – DatacenterDynamics
A Greenpeace analyst commended the data center industry for gains in energy efficiency it had made over the recent years, but said the environmentalist organization wanted the industry to do more.
“With all respect to the great amount of progress you’ve made in energy efficient design … we’re asking you to do more,” Gary Cook, senior IT analyst at Greenpeace, said during a keynote address at the Uptime Institute’s annual symposium in Santa Clara, California, Monday.
“You have an important role to play in changing our economy,” he said. The world is becoming increasingly reliant on data centers, and both governments and energy companies are working hard to attract them.
Greenpeace wants data center operators to prioritize clean energy sources for their power and to demand cleaner fuel mix from their energy providers.
Citing figures from a report by the non-profit Climate Group, Cook said the IT industry was responsible for about 2% of global carbon emissions. Applying IT could result in a reduction of carbon emissions by 15%, however, the same report concluded.
These applications include examples like telecommuting instead of driving or sending an email instead of delivering a physical letter.
If the data centers the world is already so dependent on and will become more so would run on clean energy, “this could be a huge win,” Cook said. People in this room could be leading the charge in driving the clean-energy economy.”
To help the data center industry identify clean energy sources, Greenpeace is planning to create a Clean Energy Guide for data centers, Cook said. The guide will evaluate renewable energy choices for key data center regions.
In April, Greenpeace released a report titled “How clean is my cloud”, where it ranked 15 companies based on their energy policies. Rating categories included the amount of coal and nuclear energy they used, the level of transparency about their energy use, infrastructure-siting policy, energy efficiency and greenhouse-gas mitigation and the use of renewable energy and clean-energy advocacy.
This was the second such report the organization had put out.
Of the 15 well-known companies, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft were identified as companies relying on dirty fuel. Google, Facebook and Yahoo! received more positive reviews from Greenpeace.
Response from the industry was mixed. Companies that received high marks were proud of the achievement and companies that did not either declined to comment or questioned accuracy of the calculcations Greenpeace used to arrive at its conclusions.
Cook mentioned Facebook during his keynote at the symposium, saying the company had improved in the environmentalist organization’s eyes. While its Oregon and North Carolina data centers still rely heavily on coal energy, the company’s choice to locate its newest data center in Sweden, where the energy mix is relatively clean, was a turn in the right direction.
In a statement issued in December 2011, Facebook announced a commitment to eventually power all of its operations with clean and renewable energy. Cook said the decision to build in Sweden was evidence that the company’s commitment was real.