The Cloud is Now Going Green, Recent Reports Say

A recent report released by the environmental group Greenpeace entitled, “How Dirty is your Data? A Look at the Energy Choices That Power Cloud Computing,” revealed that the data centers that power cloud computing account for about 2% of global energy demand and are growing their energy consumption at a rate of about 12% per year.” Greenpeace also reports that “most of the energy consumed which ranges from 50% to 80%, is derived from nuclear and coal energy.

The Greenpeace Report

In the Greenpeace environmental study, 10 top tech companies were assessed which included Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, HP, IBM, Yahoo!, Twitter, Yahoo!, and Akamai. Apple was given the lowest score while Yahoo! and Akamai were the least environmentally damaging. Five factors were established to assess each company which included: Coal Intensity, Clean Energy Index, Transparency, Mitigation Strategy., and Infrastructure Siting. Apple scored a 6.7% Clean Energy Index, 54.5% Coal Intensity Index, received Cs for its Mitigation Strategy and its Transparency, and an F for Infrastructure Siting. The report did acknowledge positives such as Yahoo! using coal-based power for only 18.3% of its workload and Google promoting solar and wind projects by creating Google Energy allowing them to purchase electricity from independent renewable energy producers.

Greenpeace ‘Green’ Cloud Recommendations

In the report, Greenpeace recommended that cloud computing companies implement such initiatives as: “regulatory intervention to reduce utilization of dirty energy in grid mix, renewable energy and energy efficiency standards at a national, state or regional level where they have operations or co-location facilities, provide investment incentives for data centers and internet infrastructure to be powered by renewable energy, provide mechanisms to drive distributed renewable energy generation and clean energy storage, and increase research and development funding of clean energy generation and storage technologies.”

Greenpeace did point out that data centers were cutting energy consumption in other areas but it was too difficult to get an actual measurement. Some big companies are making efforts to become more eco-friendly.  For instance, Google is signing contacts to purchase wind energy in Iowa and Oklahoma. Microsoft is seeking to use wind energy to power its data center in Dublin. As the world shifts to a more environmentally sustainable global village, we should expect to see more large tech companies implementing measures to make cloud computing more energy efficient