While aggregate electricity demand in most of the developed world is flat or is in decline, IT-driven electricity demand continues to climb, with data centres growing between 12% and 19% annually. Without a significant increase in the use of renewable energy, the IT sector’s environmental footprint will continue to grow at a rate of concern, and will increase the demand for electricity produced from coal and other forms of dirty energy.
Recognition of this challenge and the need to move beyond improvements in energy efficiency have led a growing number of companies to set or strengthen renewable energy targets. Several companies have committed to becoming 100% powered by renewable energy, including Japan’s SoftBank, whose CEO did so via Twitter (of course).
Energy and Emissions Targets
Cisco announced an updated set of targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions (40% below 2007 levels by 2017), energy intensity goals (15% energy per unit of revenue by 2017) and renewable energy (25% of total by 2017) targets in early 2013.
Google continues to pursue a number of different strategies to secure more renewable energy by directly purchasing it wherever possible. The most recent example involved collaboration with a local utility in Oklahoma to increase the amount of renewable energy for its data centre there. As part of a comprehensive GHG mitigation strategy, Wipro has set a goal of achieving 85% of its emissions reductions through the increased use of renewable energy.
Infrastructure Siting Policy
Cisco helps set the bar for this criterion with the recent adoption of performance-based goals for its facilities, defined by the emissions factor of the local electricity. In combination with its other goals, this new commitment should serve to drive significant new growth by Cisco away from coal-fired generation.
Product Efficiency & Supply Chain Footprint
Last year HP increased the energy efficiency of its consumer products by 50% compared to 2005. HP leads the industry in its reporting of GHG emissions from its operations and supply chain, with estimates of supply chain emissions from 86% of its first-tier suppliers.