Internet Giants Have Greenhouse Gas Issues

What do Amazon, Netflix, Google and Facebook have in common? Besides being  some of the biggest names on the web, they all need to get serious about reducing their carbon emissions, according to a new report from Verdantix, an independent analyst firm focused on energy, environment and sustainability.

The report, entitled Carbon Strategy Benchmark: Internet Sector, assesses the carbon and energy strategies of the world’s 14 largest Internet and social networking firms, including Chinese players Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent alongside Akamai, Amazon, Apple, eBay, Expedia, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Priceline, Salesforce and Yahoo!. It finds that nearly all of these companies need to  need to adopt a more strategic approach to energy and carbon management.

facebook data center

image via Facebook

“Due to their rapid growth and global prominence, internet and social networking firms such as Facebook and Google will be confronted by a barrage of energy and carbon emissions challenges,” said Verdantix Director, David Metcalfe, in a statement. He goes on to note that these challenges include rising energy spending tied to exploding data center usage, the potential negative impact of energy price volatility on financial results and public criticism of sustainability commitments by groups such as Greenpeace and the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.  “Big data centre [sic] users such as Amazon and Salesforce cannot ignore the closing jaws of mandatory carbon reporting indefinitely,” he said.

Only 4 of the 14 firms analyzed in the study – Akamai, Apple, eBay and Google – disclose greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their data centres on a global basis, and none of these 14 global internet giants currently invests in assurance from a recognized, independent verifier of GHG emissions data. This despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency estimates data center energy consumption doubled between 2000 and 2006, and the Department of Energy estimates that data centers now accounts for as much as 3% of the U.S.’s total electricity bill.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jgkoomey Jonathan Koomey

    The actual US data center electricity use totals for 2010 are about 2%, not 3% as reported above: u00a0http://www.analyticspress.com/datacenters.htmlnJohn Markoff at the NY Times wrote a nice summary here: u00a0http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/01/technology/data-centers-using-less-power-than-forecast-report-says.html?_r=1