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AWS Pledges To Run Entirely on Renewable Energy

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Inc. recently joined tech giants like Google Inc. and Apple Inc. in promising to run its datacenters solely on renewable energy.

The company this week updated its sustainability page with this statement: "AWS has a long-term commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure footprint."

Though vague -- AWS provided no time frame for achieving this goal, for instance -- the announcement ostensibly signals a marked turnaround in AWS energy policies, for which it has been frequently criticized.

Three of the 11 AWS regions, including the recently opened Frankfurt datacenter, are completely carbon-neutral. However, as the leading cloud provider by a wide margin, AWS had been a glaring omission in the roster of high-profile cloud companies, including Google, Apple, Box, Rackspace Inc. and Salesforce.com Inc., that have publicly declared their commitment to renewable energy.

In an April 2014 report (PDF) on the use of green energy among leading cloud providers, Greenpeace Inc. gave AWS failing grades for energy transparency, policy, efficiency and deployment. The environmental watchdog called AWS "among the dirtiest and least transparent companies in the sector, far behind its major competitors, with zero reporting of its energy or environmental footprint to any source or stakeholder."

On Wednesday, Greenpeace called the AWS pledge "a potential breakthrough."

"Amazon's datacenters consume massive amounts of electricity, and they're proliferating incredibly quickly, which is why today's news is so crucial and promising," wrote Greenpeace media officer David Pomerantz in a blog post. "A renewably powered Amazon Web Services could be a catalyst for clean energy growth around the world, a hero in the effort to build the modern economy, powered by 100% renewable energy, that is so urgently needed to address climate change."

However, Greenpeace criticized the lack of detail in the AWS announcement, noting that the company hasn't provided a roadmap for achieving its renewable energy goals. To that end, "Amazon should begin by providing a detailed snapshot of its energy and greenhouse gas footprint, and committing to providing regular updates as it changes," Pomerantz said.

Greenpeace also singled out the AWS Virginia datacenter, which houses about half of all AWS servers, as being particularly "dirty," with the vast majority of its electricity coming from coal, nuclear power and natural gas. The group urged AWS to put pressure on its Virginia utility company to provide more renewable energy sources.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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