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Pressure grows on AWS to power more datacentres with green energy

Public cloud giant is being called on again to be more transparent about its use of renewable energy, this time by Green America

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is under renewed pressure to increase the amount of renewable energy used to power its datacentres by 2020, despite assurances about its progress in this area.

The public cloud giant has been pounced on by the Green America campaign group, which has called on Amazon to commit to increasing its share of renewable energy-powered datacentres to 100% by 2020.

The Green America group describes itself as concerned with creating a “socially just and environmentally sustainable society” and regularly lobbies against firms whose actions it believes stand in the way of this goal.

In Amazon’s case, Green America claims the firm is one of the few Fortune 500 firms not to produce an annual sustainability report or share details of its greenhouse gas emissions with the Carbon Disclosure Project.

This is something it wants the firm to address so users of its services have a clearer idea of its stance on environmental issues.

“Every day, tens of millions of consumers are watching movies, reading news articles and posting to social media sites that all use Amazon Web Services,” said Elizabeth O’Connell, campaigns director at Green America.

“What they don’t realise is by using Amazon Web Services they are contributing to climate change.

“Amazon needs to take action to increase its use of renewables to 100% by 2020, so consumers won’t have to choose between using the internet and protecting the planet,” she added.

Amazon hit by green brigade

This isn’t the first time Amazon has found itself at the centre of a sustainability storm, as campaign group Greenpeace has repeatedly aired concerns about the source of the energy used to power its datacentres.

In November 2014, AWS publicly pledged to work towards ensuring its global infrastructure would be powered solely by renewable energy sources in time. 

While applauded by Greenpeace, the non-governmental organisation said the cloud giant should have accompanied the pledge with a clear roadmap about how it intends to achieve its goal.

This was a sentiment echoed by Green America’s executive co-director Todd Larsen, who said: “While it is clear Amazon’s climate emissions and overall environmental impacts are huge, the public has no way of knowing just how large they are or Amazon’s plans for reducing them.”

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“We are calling on Amazon to take steps to be transparent about its emissions and to rapidly move to renewable energy,” he added.

An AWS spokesperson told Computer Weekly the firm is committed to helping customers reduce the size of their carbon footprint through the use of cloud computing services.

“AWS customers have already shown environmental leadership by moving to cloud computing, which is inherently more environmentally friendly than traditional computing. Any analysis on the climate impact of a datacentre should take into consideration resource utilisation and energy efficiency, in addition to power mix,” the spokesperson said.

“We believe our focus on resource utilisation and energy efficiency, combined with our increasing use of renewable energy, will help our customers achieve their carbon reduction and sustainability goals. We will continue to provide updates of our progress on our AWS and Sustainability Energy page,” the spokesperson added.

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