Greenpeace published on April 20 a report on the energy choices of the largest IT companies involved in the emerging 'cloud computing' segment.
According to the report, these companies are increasing society's dependance on dirty energy even as the concept of the cloud itself promises a greener world by enabling smart grids, telecommuting and other services and new ways of doing so many things.
Notably, the report says that the data centers enabling the digital cloud consume about 1.5 percent to 2 percent of global electricity. In the smaller scale, electronic devices are said to account for 15 percent of home electricity use.
The report focuses on (alphabetically) Internet hosting services company Akamai, Amazon.com (Amazon Web Services), Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo!.
Yahoo! scored the highest grade for Greenpeace's Clean Energy Index, and obtained the lowest figure for Coal Intensity. The report notes that Yahoo! Has ''set a goal to reduce the carbon intensity of its data centres 40 percent by 2014 through efficient design and by locating new facilities near renewable energy sources.''
Aside from these two grades, the report also evaluated the companies in terms of Energy transparency, infrastructure citing, and mitigation.
Akamai got a B - the top mark - for transparency. The company participates in the Carbon Disclosure Project and reports its cloud related emissions (in CO2 per megabytes of data delivered). It is also preparing to provide customers with the monthly carbon footprint associated with content delivery through the Akamai network servers.
For infrastructure citing, Yahoo! got a B for the reason cited above.
And for mitigation, Google and IBM both got Bs. The report notes that ''IBM should be recognised for its ongoing and comprehensive plan to reduce emissions, in addition to driving significant gains in IT efficiency.'' It adds that ''IBM's mitigation strategy is further strengthened by its refusal to use 'offsets' to achieve environmental goals.''
Google - which is made less credible by its secrecy regarding the number of datacenters it operates - has created a subsidiary, Google Energy, to buy ''the highest quality, most affordable renewable energy,'' and has committed to buy 114 megawatts of wind energy in Iowa.
In the end, Greenpeace has issued the report not to praise nor put down the graded companies, but to point out the role of the IT sector in pushing for, and leading, the ''development and deployment of clean energy, broadening its opportunities for mitigation and ensuring more sustainable cloud growth, by advocating for strong climate and energy policies.''