The race to build an internet powered by renewable energy began in late 2011 when Facebook made their 100% renewable commitment. Apple and Google made the same commitment in 2012. Since that time, over 20 companies have made 100% renewable energy commitments. Switch is a latecomer to the race, having made the commitment to 100% renewable energy in late 2015
The race to power the internet from 100% renewable energy is being driven by customers demanding digital infrastructure from clean sources.
The rising cost competitiveness of renewable energy allows data centers and colocations to utilize the energy source. Energy companies in some areas sell it at the same price or lower than the price of fossil fuel depending on the arrangement.
Additionally, IT companies seek to link their brand identity with renewable energy supplies to be more competitive.
However, making the commitment to use 100% green energy sources and implementing 100% clean energy are two different tasks.
Greenpeace has evaluated all the companies that made commitments to 100% renewable energy in their 2017 report.
The Greenpeace Report Card
Greenpeace evaluates the performance of over 20 IT companies in Clicking Clean: Who is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet?
Greenpeace reviewed how the different companies performed in five different categories:
- Renewable Energy Commitment & Siting Policy
- Energy Efficiency & Mitigation
- Renewable Energy Procurement
Of all the companies reviewed, Switch was the only company to use 100% renewable energy and the only company to get an A in all five categories.
Facebook, Apple, and Google all made an A overall on their report cards, but each had a category that can be improved upon. Both Facebook and Apple made B’s in Advocacy, and Google made a B in Transparency.
Apple leads the three companies by using 83% renewable energy, followed by Facebook and 67%, and Google at 56% renewable energy consumption.
The Greenpeace report acknowledges that while Switch has emerged as the industry leader among colocation operators, the company has a much smaller fleet of data centers than many other colocation operators. Thus, when compared to the other leading data center/colocation operators, the other companies have a much greater supply of power to procure.
The Changing Energy Footprint
The Greenpeace report also shows changing trends of data center power consumption. The energy footprint of the IT sector is estimated to consume 7% of global electricity, but the proportion of how that energy is consumed is changing as more people consume data by streaming video. Netflix currently accounts for 1/3 of all video streaming in North America, but by 2020, video streaming is expected to account for 80% of internet traffic.
In 2012, electronic devices consumed 47% of electricity in the IT sector, and 18% of the power was consumed by manufacturing those devices. Data centers consumed 15% of the power and networks consumed 20% of the power.
Of those four components of electricity consumption for the IT sector, data centers and networks combined have risen from consuming 35% to 50% of the power—data centers consume 21%, networks consume 29%. Devices and manufacturing consume the other 50% with devices consuming 34% and manufacturing consuming 16%.
With this shift of power consumption, some companies are now having a greater impact concerning their power consumption and their choice of power source.
In this case, being the latecomer to the race may have advantages for Switch as they can implement clean energy practices as they build their data centers.