Greenpeace hits out at "dirty" cloud providers

Dark cloud

The growth of cloud computing has led to a surge in the use of coal and nuclear energy, claims environmental activist group Greenpeace.

This is the view put forward by the group in its "How Clean Is Your Cloud?" report, which investigated the electricity supply chains of 14 IT companies and more than 80 datacentres.

Its findings suggest that many IT firms, including Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, are relying on "dirty energy" to power datacentres and deliver cloud services.

IT companies are rapidly expanding without considering how their choice of energy could impact society

"Despite the tremendous innovation [datacentres] contain and the clean energy potential they possess, most IT companies are rapidly expanding without considering how their choice of energy could impact society," stated the report.

Companies are being encouraged to follow the lead of Google, Facebook and Yahoo, whose commitment to renewable energy was highlighted by the group.

"Three of the largest IT companies building their business around the cloud Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all rapidly expanding and rely heavily on dirty energy to power their clouds," said the report.

"Yahoo and Google both continue to lead the sector in prioritising access to renewable energy in their cloud expansion, and both have become more active in supporting policies to drive greater renewable energy investment."

The group has also made a series of suggestions to help IT firms clean up their clouds. These include introducing policies that demonstrate a preference for building datacentres where clean energy sources are readily available.

Companies are also advised to ask the Government for more renewable energy to be made available through the National Grid.

"When people around the world share their music or photos on the cloud, they want to know that [it is] powered by clean, safe energy," said Gary Cook, Greenpeace International's senior policy analyst.

"Yet highly innovative and profitable companies are building data centres powered by coal and acting like their customers won't know or won't care. They're wrong," he added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.