A big announcement has come out this morning that may help settle the awkward jabs between Greenpeace and Facebook. About two years ago, Greenpeace launched the Unfriend Coal Campaign that called together social media users as activists against Facebook's use of coal energy to power data centers. The campaign called for the company to use renewable energy, but today the campaign can end as Facebook agrees with the environmentally friendly strategy.
Facebook has agreed to power its operations using "clean and renewable energy" and it plans to build on clean energy awareness among other IT companies through its Open Compute Project.
“Greenpeace and Facebook will now work together to encourage major energy producers to move away from coal and instead invest in renewable energy. This move sets an example for the industry to follow,” said Tzeporah Berman, Co-director of Greenpeace’s International Climate and Energy Program in a press release. “This shift to clean, safe energy choices will help fight global warming and ensure a stronger economy and healthier communities.”
"Facebook looks forward to a day when our primary energy sources are clean and renewable, and we are working with Greenpeace and others to help bring that day closer," said Marcy Scott Lynn of Facebook's sustainability program. "As an important step, our datacenter siting policy now states a preference for access to clean and renewable energy. "
So... which clean and renewable energy sources will that be? Well, exactly how much renewable or clean energy will go into their data centers sounds like it's to be determined. The press release states that in addition to working with Greenpeace on energy efficiency, "Facebook also plans to engage in dialogue with utility providers about the sources of energy that power their data centers."
So in other words, the proof will be in the pudding. But considering the company has bothered to make this announcement and that they've made it while holding hands with an activist organization that is anything but easy to back away from, chances are good that this is a really impressive move forward for Facebook and probably for the entire IT industry, and will help give clean energy a healthy boost.
As we know, energy use by data centers represents just over 2% of the total US electricity demand and that energy use is expected to grow by as much as 12% each year. As Greenpeace reminds us, "Videos, pictures and other data are stored in a high tech 'cloud' which delivers data to homes and offices in real time. This cloud is often located in areas that are heavily dependent on electricity from a variety of sources, including coal, which is negatively impacting human health and the environment and is the largest source of global warming pollution. If the cloud was a country, it would be the 5th largest in the world in terms of electricity use."
We're excited to find out what this partnership might mean to the energy consumption of the IT industry. If Facebook is moving forward with it, and with Greenpeace barking at its heels, we have high hopes for good things to come.