Greenpeace response to Apple

Background - 24 April, 2012
Greenpeace is calling on Apple to:
  • Make it company policy to seek renewable energy when siting data centres.
  • Urge their electricity suppliers to move away from dirty energy generation, investing instead in renewable energy generation, capacity, and efficiency.
  • Advocate full transparency of their energy use and carbon footprint for all products, as well as their cloud presence.
  • Encourage their product suppliers and manufacturers to adopt similar policies, and give preferences to green suppliers.

In response to the April 17th launch of our report ‘How Clean is Your Cloud’, Apple announced two things. First, they put out a much lower figure on the use of power in the data centres in North Carolina, claiming our figures were incorrect. (Learn why Apple’s figures are different from ours.)

Second, they announced, for the first time, that their data centres in Prineville, Oregon will be powered with 100% renewable energy. Of course this sounds exciting. The key question is how will Apple achieve this? Apple hasn’t explained where that clean energy will come from, and the major utility option in Prineville is PacifiCorp, which is 61% coal power.

We’re asking Apple to fully disclose their plans so people can see how they intend to meet this goal. Will they choose to contract for renewable energy with the smaller utility in Prineville, Central Electric Cooperative, or simply buy dirty energy from PacifiCorp and purchase renewable energy credits? Or will they build their own renewable sources on site? Once Apple gives us details, we can of course review their position in our scorecard.

Meanwhile, what we're asking for remains unchanged. Apple currently has no policy that expresses preference for renewables, they are not active in advocating for renewables with their government or suppliers and they will not disclose their energy data for public scrutiny. As an enormously innovative, rich and powerful company, they could do all these things, as Google, Yahoo and Facebook have done, and more. Come on Apple, let’s think different.

Update May 2, 2012

New information from the North Carolina Division of Air Quality shows that Apple applied for and received permits for 24 backup diesel generators that would provide the iDataCenter with 54 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

All data centers need diesel generators as an on-site backup so that if there’s a blackout, the facility can keep running, and many companies install some redundant backup capacity for additional security. When it applied for these permits, Apple anticipated a normal power demand for the facility of 75% of the rated capacity of these generators, or 41 MW, nearly double the amount Apple claimed after Greenpeace launched our campaign.

Why would Apple want to mislead the public by seeking to hide its future power demands? By claiming their electricity demand will be much smaller, Apple can convey the impression that most of their electricity would come from their solar panels and fuel cells on site, not Duke’s coal. But Apple’s diesel permits show that the company clearly is in a position to continue to expand and increase the power demand of its Maiden iDataCenter, and that expansion would be fuelled by dirty coal from Duke.

See Apple's application and permit with the North Carolina Division of Air Quality.

Update May 23, 2012

Two days after Greenpeace activists barricaded themselves in an “iPod” at Apple’s headquarters to protest against powering the iCloud with coal, Apple made a bold claim to make all three of its data centres “coal free” and has doubled the amount of solar energy powering its data centre in North Carolina.

For a fuller analysis of the announcement, see our blog.

Update March 22 2013

Apple released a report today on its environmental progress. Apple’s announcement shows that it has made real progress in its commitment to lead the way to a clean energy future. But of course, there’s still plenty of work left for Apple to do. Read more here.