When most people think of Amazon.com, they think of e-books or online shopping. But Amazon is also responsible for storing and delivering the data behind a massive portion of the Internet via its Amazon Web Services (AWS) business, including Netflix, Pinterest, Spotify, and Smugmug. Amazon won’t say exactly how many servers it has keeping the Internet humming, but a recent study estimated that one third of all daily internet users will access an Amazon AWS cloud site on average at least once a day.
Unfortunately, much of the massive AWS cloud is powered by dirty sources of energy like coal, which is why Greenpeace has asked AWS to follow other leading Internet companies, like Google and Facebook, to switch from dirty to clean energy.
Since AWS has failed to seize this opportunity, Greenpeace launched a hoax “Green AWS” website last week at re:Invent, Amazon’s biggest conference for its customers, in Las Vegas.
Throughout the conference Greenpeace set up a wireless network to divert conference attendees’ attention to www.greenaws.com, a web site that declared that AWS would be rolling out cloud options powered by renewable energy, and that customers could sign up there to host their data in a special pilot edition of the program. If only.
So far, Amazon has ignored the growing movement toward providing a cloud powered by renewable energy – that movement includes some of its biggest competitors, as well as its customers.
Unlike competitors Google, Microsoft and Rackspace, Amazon will not even tell its customers how much energy it is using or what its sources are.
According to Greenpeace International’s analysis (see page 4 of that report) of major cloud companies’ energy supply, the AWS cloud gets only 13.5% of its electricity supply from renewable sources overall. For those AWS customers who rely on AWS’s US East Region in Virginia, which is estimated to hold 70% of the servers in the AWS cloud, the picture is far worse; more than 75% of the electricity supply in that region comes from coal and nuclear power, including coal that comes from highly destructive mountaintop removal mining. Only 4% of energy there comes from renewable sources.
Here is how AWS stacks up against other leading cloud companies:
|Energy Transparency?||Claimed Renewable Energy Commitment||Clean Energy Index||Dirty Energy %|
|Yes||Carbon Neutral, $1B invested in renewable energy||40%||44%|
|Yes||Renewable powered Facebook||38%||48%|
|Rackspace||Yes||Factors renewable energy in data center investments||32%||51%|
|Apple||Yes||100% renewable energy & coal-free iCloud||23%||45%|
AWS competitors like Google and Rackspace are already making the switch to clean energy. Google has invested almost one billion dollars in renewable energy, and is increasingly powering its data centers with renewable energy like wind power.
Amazon could make the same bold moves, but the company’s leadership seems intent on continuing to use 19th century energy to power its amazing 21st century cloud. Amazon’s customers deserve to store their data in a cloud that’s powered by clean energy, and if Amazon does not want to provide that, those customers may want to start looking at other, cleaner options out there.