The race for a green internet

Greenpeace’s report Clicking Green explores digital infrastructure’s renewable transition.

The internet has changed our world and according to Greenpeace’s report Clicking Green it might be the largest single thing we build as a species. Nonetheless, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to manufacture and power all devices, data centers and related infrastructure that allow the internet to function.

According to the report, the IT sector already consumes 7% of global electricity and this is expected to rise further as the internet traffic grows. As so, internet’s carbon footprint will increase. More so, data centers for example, use massive amounts of water to function. Scientists from the Imperial College of London believe up to 200 liters of water used in 2015 for every gigabyte of downloaded information.

Read more: Did you know you waste water while using your smartphone?

But if data center and digital infrastructure is able to transition to renewable energy it’s possible to avoid dangerous climate change and accelerate the transition to a renewable powered economy.

To raise awareness about this matter Greenpeace began benchmarking the performance of the IT sector since 2009 under the Clicking Green Report. “The race to build a renewably powered internet started with digital platform leaders such as Facebook, Apple, and Google who first made 100% renewable commitments four years ago and have now been joined by nearly 20 internet companies,” reads the report.

This year, the greenest tech company in the world is Apple, for the third year in a row. The company lead the pack with an A grade and a clean energy index of 83%. Facebook and Google did well too, with 67% and 56% respectively. Meanwhile the data center Switch scored 100%.

The index measures how much clean energy the companies use and other factors such as their willingness to make their energy consumption publicly available and their commitment to green energy.

Asian tech giants like Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba and Naver are behind the US in terms of renewable commitments. “We must see East Asian internet companies exhibiting the will to commit to 100 percent renewable energy, particularly as they expand to markets around the world,” said Greenpeace East Asia Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner Jude Lee, in a statement.

“Leading IT companies in the United States have already shown that the majority of the industry recognizes that clean power is both good for the environment and good for business. East Asian companies must step up to embrace that reality as well,” Lee added.

For example, Netflix accounts for one third of North America’s internet traffic and had already committed in 2016 to fully offset its carbon footprint.

“Like Apple, Facebook, and Google, Netflix is one of the biggest drivers of the online world and has a critical say in how it is powered. Netflix must embrace the responsibility to make sure its growth is powered by renewables, not fossil fuels and it must show its leadership here,” said Greenpeace USA Senior IT Analyst, Gary Cook, in a statement.

But Greenpeace worries Netflix is turning to carbon offsets or unbundled renewable energy credits, which “do little” in terms of increasing the company’s renewable energy investment.

Following the release of the report Greenpeace began a social campaign to raise awareness about those companies who received poor grades for their use of nonrenewable resources. For example, they released a video targeting Netflix.

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