Greenpeace upgrades Apple on ‘coal-free’ promise

July 12, 2012

Greenpeace International revisited their rankings of industry leaders in cloud computing to adjust Apple’s score, due in part to Apple’s promise to make its data centers “coal-free” by 2013 and its increasing ambition to power its growing iCloud through 100 percent renewable energy.

In a report released Thursday, the environmental organization upgraded Apple in three of four categories reflecting the company’s commitment to clean energy in its cloud computing facilities. Even with its upgrades, Apple remains near the bottom of the pack, which includes Microsoft, Google, Facebook, IBM, Oracle and others.

In May, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer announced plans for implementing renewable energy at the company’s three current data centers by 2013, and Apple’s new data center in Reno, Nevada, will have access to many renewable energy options, according to the Greenpeace report.

However, the Cupertino-based maker of the iPhone and iPad has not instituted an infrastructure siting policy, like that of Facebook, that would express a commitment to building data centers in areas with an established clean energy grid, said David Pomerantz, a spokesman for Greenpeace International.

Pomerantz also said Apple struggles in the category of transparency because it is “famously tight-lipped” about information about its practices. Beyond the company’s goals, Apple releases little detail on the specifics of its renewable energy practices, he said.

Apple has a page on its website dedicated to explaining its renewable energy commitments, specifically for data centers. Its Maiden, North Carolina, data center is the only one of any company to use on-site renewable energy, an Apple spokeswoman said.

Apple improved its grades in both energy efficiency and advocacy to average, improving its infrastructure siting to below average and remaining below average in energy transparency, according to the Greenpeace updated company scorecard. Apple’s scores place it below Yahoo and Google, but above Twitter and Amazon.

“(Apple) actually led the way on making their products exceptionally environmentally friendly,” Pomerantz said. “Now they’ve made some really bold commitments on their cloud computing.”

Greenpeace will release another report later this year focusing on companies that serve the business market, such as Microsoft and Amazon, Pomerantz said. He added that a full update to the “How clean is your cloud?” scorecard may come as soon as 2013.

UPDATE: Apple said that it is very committed to its green agenda.

“We’re committed to building the world’s most environmentally responsible data centers and are leading the industry in the use of renewable energy, including the nation’s largest private solar arrays and non-utility fuel cell installation,” an Apple spokeswoman said.

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