Greenpeace ‘likes’ Facebook’s new datacentre, but wants a greener friendship

Press release - 27 October, 2011
Amsterdam, 27 October 2011 -- Greenpeace today welcomed news that Facebook’s new datacentre, to be built in Luleå, Sweden (1), could be fully powered by renewable energy, but called on the company to take its ambitions further by using green energy throughout its global datacentres.

The news comes following Greenpeace’s 20-month Unfriend Coal campaign, which saw 700,000 users ask Facebook to go greener by shifting its investment from coal, to electricity generated from renewable energy sources (2).

 “This is a great step forward for Facebook, but we would like more details on how much renewable energy will power its data centre in Luleå,” said Casey Harrell, Greenpeace IT analyst. “With the IT sector one of the fastest growing consumers of electricity in the world, Facebook’s taking leadership on renewable energy could help determine whether we have a dirty ‘cloud’ or not.”

 Electricity consumption of datacentres is among the fastest growing sources of global electricity demand.  In the US, which hosts approximately 40% of the world’s datacentre servers, datacentre electricity consumption increased by nearly 40% during the economic downturn of 2007-2010.  

 In April 2011 Greenpeace released the “How Dirty is Your Data?” report (3), and calculated the percentage of coal Facebook uses to power its servers, with estimates prior to today’s announcement at 53.2%.  Each of Facebook‘s US datacentres are estimated to use the same amount of electricity as 30,000 US homes (4). 

 Since Greenpeace started its Unfriend Coal, Facebook has responded by taking several important steps forward in building a greener Facebook, including the launch of the Open Compute Energy Efficiency Project in April 2011, and just last month announced a new partnership with Opower in the US, which has strong potential to leverage the reach of the Facebook platform to encourage its users to reduce their electricity consumption (3). 

 While Facebook’s 800 million users will undoubtedly “like” today’s news of a greener Facebook, if Facebook is to truly go green, Greenpeace is calling on the company to:

  • State a public preference for siting its new datacentre infrastructure in locations where they can be significantly powered by clean renewable energy. This will send a important signal to IT companies and electricity providers that want to compete for future Facebook business.
  •  While Facebook has demonstrated significant leadership in breaking down the secrecy culture among datacentre operators, sharing energy efficient datacentre designs through the Open Compute Project, a similar transparent approach must be taken with regard to its total energy footprint, as was recently embraced by Google.
  • As a large purchaser of electricity, Facebook should use this leverage to advocate for a significant shift in investment with the utilities already has contracts, Duke Energy in North Carolina and Pacific Power in Oregon, which rely heavily on coal.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.

Contacts:

Tom Dowdall, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, Amsterdam, +31 6 21296892

Casey Harrell, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, San Francisco, + 1 415 307 3382

Greenpeace International 24-hour Press Desk Hotline: +31 6 21296892 

Notes for Editors:

1. According to reports, Facebook's new datacentre is sited in Luleå, Sweden, where the company has options to purchase up to 100% renewable powered electricity from utility providers. Facebook has not yet revealed the full details of how the facility will be powered. See http://www.greenpeace.org/sweden/se/vad-vi-jobbar-for/klimat/elbolag/ for more details (in Swedish)

2. Over the past 20 months, Greenpeace has campaigned online over the world and in over 20 countries for a greener Facebook with its Unfriend Coal campaign, pressuring the company to shift its investment from coal to renewable powered services.  The campaign has organised over 700,000 Facebook users in 14 languages, and has set a Guinness World Record for most comments on a Facebook post within 24 hours.  

http://www.facebook.com/unfriendcoal

http://www.greenpeace.org/unfriendcoal

3. See How Dirty is Your Data? report for details on Facebook power demand estimates. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/How-dirty-is-your-data/

4.  Estimated U.S. Household energy demand from U.S. Energy Information Agency. http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3

 

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