<> at Milk Studios on February 12, 2015 in New York City.

<> at Milk Studios on February 12, 2015 in New York City.

As the “Internet of Things” rapidly expands, steep increases in power consumption by society are on the horizon. The lifeblood of all “Internet of Things” devices is the energy-intensive transmission and constant streaming of data between the internet/cloud-connected devices and massive data centers operated by Internet companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft or Facebook.

The fact that we already live a big chunk of our 24/7 fast-paced modern daily lives online prompted Greenpeace to start calling for “building a green internet”. To keep the leading players in the space honest, Greenpeace has been evaluating the energy demand of the Internet as well as companies’ energy choices since 2010 by creating a ’Clean Energy Index’ – in their words – “as a response to the lack of useful metrics and publicly available data to evaluate and compare the energy footprints of major cloud providers and their respective data centers.”

Its new 2015 “Clicking Clean: A Guide to Building a Green Internet” gives an update of what Internet companies are doing – given that they are basically the load-bearing pillars of the Internet via their computer servers and data centers – and highlights which of them are leading the way.

Which Companies are Clicking Clean?

roman apple

Source: Greenpeace

The report sets the stage by providing some interesting numbers, which explain why an increase of society’s carbon footprint seems inevitable without proper countermeasures:

“Global mobile data was estimated to increase by a whopping 69% in 2014, and is expected to maintain its breakneck growth through at least 2019, due to the rapid increase of video streaming to mobile devices and as more of the world’s population gains basic access to the internet via smartphones. The online population topped 3 billion in 2014, and mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to jump to a staggering 7.6 billion by 2020. (…) Unless leading internet companies find a way to leapfrog traditional, polluting sources of electricity, the convenience of streaming could cause us to increase our carbon footprint.”

While the good news is, according to the Greenpeace report, that more and more Internet companies “have begun to create a corner of the internet that is renewably powered (…), with over a half dozen major internet companies now committed to being 100% renewably powered.” The report appears to vilify monopolistic electric utilities as “the biggest obstacles to building a green internet” (See the entire report for more details).

It could be argued that this is a bit shortsighted because the same conventional power sources used along a global supply chain are actually silently welcomed in the production of many consumer devices that are indispensable for keeping the Internet companies’ data centers busy and their profit margins expanding.

Nevertheless, Apple claims the top spot in the Greenpeace ranking by “lead[ing] the charge in powering its corner of the internet with renewable energy even as it continues to rapidly expand.” The report praises Apple for again being a pioneer, noting: “Apple’s aggressive pursuit of its commitment to power the iCloud with 100% renewable energy has given the company the inside track among the IT sector’s leaders in building a green Internet. (…) Apple’s commitment to renewable energy has helped set a new bar for the industry, illustrating in very concrete terms that a 100% renewable Internet is within its reach, and providing several models of intervention for other companies that want to build a sustainable Internet.”

Read the entire “Clicking Clean” report here with details on individual companies’ performances and Greenpeace’s “Road Map to a Clean Internet”.

roman apple 2Source: Greenpeace