Wind turbines in Iowa, U.S.

Can the same people who brought us search engines, Internet-powered smart phones, and the cloud also help us save the planet from climate change?

At Greenpeace, we think so, which is why we’ve been pushing the technology sector to provide the energy solutions that can help address climate change as a part of our Cool IT campaign since 2009.

The good news is, technology companies agree with us – having said repeatedly that they can drive transformative change in the consumption and production of energy.

Today, we released our sixth Cool IT Leaderboard, which ranked 21 technology leaders to see if they’re fulfilling that promise or not.

Our report couldn’t be timelier: Tech giants Google and Facebook have both announced great steps in the past week that will lead to a cleaner energy grid in the United States, with Facebook building its next data center in wind energy rich Iowa, and Google announcing that it had gotten U.S. utility giant Duke Energy to agree to offer a new renewable class of electricity service to large customers in North Carolina.

We haven’t evaluated Facebook in our Cool IT Leaderboards, since it’s not yet offering services that can directly help us use our energy smarter and cleaner. But we do evaluate Google, and the company’s recent leadership with Duke Energy clearly fit into a larger trend, as it tied for the report’s lead.

The ranking found that Google and Cisco are leading the way, followed by Ericsson in third place, Fujitsu in fourth, and Sprint, Wipro and HP tied for fifth.

Many companies have continued to make progress in offering products and services to enable a renewably powered economy, and more companies increased their own commitment to renewable energy. However, despite the IT sector’s green ambitions, we won’t achieve transformational change – a real Energy Revolution – until technology companies use their political power to demand a shift to energy policies that will unlock investment in clean energy solutions.

Monopoly electric utilities, such as Duke Energy in the US or TEPCO in Japan, have shunned the innovative potential of the IT sector in favor of polluting, centralised electricity generation like coal and nuclear power. Those companies have dominated the power grids and markets for over 100 years in many parts of the world, and have entrenched their political power during that reign. But technology companies have political leverage too: they have amassed money and cultural power in recent decades, and can create a counterweight against the polluting lobby, but only if they use their political leverage to push for smarter, cleaner, more efficient energy grids and buildings.

We did find some positive signs of technology companies advocating for smarter energy policies in countries like the U.S., Japan and in India: Sprint, Google, Wipro, and SoftBank all prioritised policy changes to encourage investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

And while it wasn’t released in time to be included in this report, Google’s announcement that it would push utilities to deliver more renewable energy to large customers, a practice that will start with Duke Energy in North Carolina could be a potential breakthrough; Duke’s current energy mix is powered by only 0.2 % renewable energy in the Carolinas, a stark contrast to Google’s goal of being 100% renewably powered. Other companies ranked in the Leaderboard, like AT&T, Cisco, Google, IBM and Wipro all operate in North Carolina too, and could work together to follow Google’s lead and demand more renewable energy from Duke Energy, or step in to defend state renewable energy policies currently under attack by fossil fuel funded groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Energy decisions this year are getting more and more crucial as we approach climate tipping points. If the technology giants of the world are going to use their voices to promote the smart energy solutions to climate change, they need to do so now.

Check out the report here and see how the brands that you use stack up in the tech sector’s efforts to embrace clean energy and help stop climate change.