Greenpeace updates Google’s Environmental Grade from F to B

Greenpeace has posted its view of Google’s environmental disclosures.

Good news: Google comes clean on energy use

Blogpost by Tom Dowdall - September 8, 2011 at 20:31Add comment

Today Google has finally released information on exactly how much energy it takes to provide searches, email, youtube videos and all other Google services. For years Google has claimed this information was a “trade secret”, despite many competitors having already disclosed the same information. Such a lack of transparency led to much speculation about Google’s energy use from Blackle (remember that?), via much disputed kettle boiling comparisons, to our own recent dirty data report.

Previously Google has “a big fat F” from Greenpeace.

Since 2009 we’ve been pushing Google and all IT companies to be more transparent as part of ourCool IT leaderboard, and in our analysis of the power consumption and energy-source choices of data centers, as part of our Dirty Data report where Google scored a big fat F for transparency.

With Google’s latest extra credit work, Greenpeace would Google a “B”.

If we were giving out new grades based on today’s release, Google would likely earn a low to middle “B”.

Until today, silence from the Googleplex on producing meaningful environmental footprint data seriously undermined its standing as a corporate leader on clean energy, and put it out of step with many other IT companies. Publishing this data helps back up Google’s impressive track record on renewable investment (US$700m in the last year) and policy work in support of strong climate targets.

There is a lot of good info that Google has put out today, including more detail on how it can claim to be “carbon neutral”, which we’ll have more to say on that later, but as a customer of Google and other “Cloud” computing companies, we need to see others put their numbers and plans for clean energy on the table, both to help customers make more informed decision about the carbon impact of different online services, and hopefully to spur greater transparency and competition for improved performance that the IT sector is so known for.

Why not an “A”?  Greenpeace objects to site location in areas where coal is the dominant energy generation composition.

Of course a central part of the take home message from Google is that they want you to feel good about using their products, and should maybe be more thinking more about the footprint of the bottle of wine you are drinking than your Gmail account.  However, Google’s data centers in South and North Carolina certainly don’t run on wine yet (78% and 62% coal powered respectively), and going forward we will be taking a deeper look at how Google and other companies are increasing the demand for dirty energy and the pollution that comes with it in many communities in their race to build the cloud, a task that is made slightly easier today with Google’s new commitment to transparency.

Greenpeace goes on to call out for the rest of the data center industry to match Google’s performance.

Google is now disclosing more information than other big IT companies and is one of the first companies after Akamia to release information on how much energy and emissions are generated by its Gmail and Youtube services which are based on distributed servers, known as cloud computing.

And calls out one of those it would like to see join the transparency.

Google’s big step forward leaves Facebook kinda lonesome at the back of the green IT class, failing to say anything about how much energy is consumed and emissions are created by all our millions of Facebook posts, photos and online friendships generate. Its high time Facebook took a step forward by ditching dirty coal power and following Google’s lead by increasing its use of renewable energy.

Ask Facebook to unfriend coal by joining the Unfriend Coal fan-page