Google has somehow dodged the wrath of environmental group Greenpeace, which last week lashed out in a report at a range of cloud providers.
Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft were strongly criticized by Greenpeace in this year's report, titled "How Clean is Your Cloud?" Those firms were listed on the Greenpeace homepage in a call to action to fix the "dirtiest thing on the internet." But here's what the report said about Google:
Google's commitment to using renewable energy as much
as possible has set the bar for the industry. Google has
recently increased its goal of renewable energy purchasing
from 25% to 35% of total energy use and added a
$94m investment in a portfolio of four solar photovoltaic
projects in California. These actions, among a slew of other
investments, are playing a useful role in the total expansion
of renewable energy.
In last year's report, titled "How Dirty is Your Data?" Google was billed as creating, along with Apple and Facebook, a "dirty data triangle" of data centers reliant on coal-based utility power in North Carolina.
Last year's report stated: "Unfortunately, as we have seen with global IT companies who have located data centres in North Carolina... the short-term lure of low-cost dirty energy and tax incentives has often been too much to resist..." For Google specifically, North Carolina offered tax breaks and other incentives worth $212 million over a 30-year period.
Google also got a grade of "F" from Greenpeace last year for transparency in reporting its energy use, along with the same "C" grade for infrastructure siting that it received this year.
So what's changed? Granted, Greenpeace acknowledges that Google's use of coal-based utility power has gone down 17 percent, from 34.7 percent to 28.7 percent. Still, that 28.7 percent is not too far off the dastardly Amazon's 33.9 percent.
Surely, Google hasn't repented its site in North Carolina. Quite the contrary. And even though Apple was trounced by Greenpeace this year for placing iCloud data centers in Prineville, Ore., and Maiden, N.C., Google also has a data center in Oregon.
One hint of the reason for Google's redemption with Greenpeace may lie in the grade of "B" that Greenpeace awarded Google in this year's report. Here's how Greenpeace puts it:
In late 2011, Google increased the transparency of its
environmental footprint significantly. The company finally
published its energy usage and GHG [green house gas] footprint for the first time. Google has also provided white papers on its energy
procurement plans, and basic information to end users
on the energy/carbon footprint associated with its various
In other words, Google opened up to Greenpeace and talked up its plans to do better. Also, since Google has invested heavily in clean energy companies and projects (though at least one of these, BrightSource Energy, has had to pull back from an IPO due to market recalcitrance), Greenpeace seems willing to overlook the vendor's carbon sins in North Carolina.
And even though Greenpeace says Google needs improvement in breaking down the emissions profile for various facilities, Greenpeace awarded the company a grade of "A" for Renewable Energy Investment and Advocacy.
Compare that to Apple's grade of "D," despite the vendor's plans to include a solar farm and fuel cell facility in its $1 billion investment in Maiden.
But Apple hasn't talked the talk with Greenpeace. And Google, famed for persuasive lobbying, apparently has.
Neither Google nor Greenpeace responded to requests for comment on this blog at press time. But stay tuned.
— Mary Jander , Managing Editor, Internet Evolution