Activists Float Question to Amazon and Microsoft: How Clean Is Your Cloud?
Greenpeace activists floated a cloud over downtown Seattle today in a demonstration to draw attention to the type of energy that tech companies Amazon and Microsoft use to power their cloud computing services.
Activists climbed atop the roof outside of Amazon’s new headquarters, and across the street from Microsoft offices, and rappelled off the roof displaying an 800 square foot cloud-shaped banner over the city’s rooftops. The message on the banner read “Amazon, Microsoft: How Clean is Your Cloud?”
“People want to use innovative devices and technology like the Kindle and Windows Phone without having to connect to a cloud powered by dirty and dangerous energy,” said Greenpeace International IT Analyst Casey Harrell. “Amazon and Microsoft have some of the brightest, most innovative engineers in the business. They have the potential to power their cloud with green, renewable energy, but are falling behind competitors Google, Facebook and Yahoo in the race to build a truly clean cloud.”
As more people around the world use the cloud to store and share photos, videos and documents, companies such as Amazon and Microsoft are building more data centers that house thousands of computers and consume tremendous amounts of electricity. The growth and scale of investment in the cloud is mind-blowing, with estimates of a 50-fold increase in the amount of digital information by 2020.1 On April 17, Greenpeace International released its report How Clean is Your Cloud?, which assessed 14 global cloud computing companies on their environmental performance in areas of transparency, energy efficiency, renewable energy investment and clean energy advocacy.
The report showed that both Amazon and Microsoft are powering a majority of their cloud infrastructure with dirty and dangerous coal and nuclear power. Neither company has a data center siting policy that gives preference to renewable energy like other industry peers. Amazon operates its cloud services in almost complete secrecy and refuses to give any information about the energy sources used to power its cloud.2
“Today’s protest kickstarts Greenpeace’s new global ‘Clean Our Cloud’ campaign,” stated Harrell. "We aim to mobilize millions of people around the globe who love the convenience and functionality of the cloud, but don't want this great 21st-century technology to be powered by a 19th-century power source like coal.”
Greenpeace's Clean Our Cloud campaign is calling on industry laggards Microsoft, Amazon and Apple to join the growing number of tech companies who are taking steps to power their clouds substantially with renewable energy. Yesterday, Greenpeace activists protested at the European headquarters of Apple, Microsoft and Amazon in Ireland, Turkey and Luxembourg, respectively.
In Seattle, activists wearing t-shirts and holding balloons with the twitter hashtag #cleancloud handed out leaflets addressed to Microsoft and Amazon employees. The aim of this protest is to highlight Amazon and Microsoft’s dirty energy problem and to communicate with employees the urgent need to clean our cloud.
Greenpeace is calling on Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and all IT companies with cloud services to:
- Be more transparent about their energy usage and carbon footprint, and to share innovative solutions so that the rest of the sector can improve
- Develop a siting policy that demonstrates a preference to build data centers in areas where clean energy can power the facility
- Invest in or directly purchase renewable energy
- Demand that governments and electric utilities increase the amount of renewable electricity available on the grid
For more information, click here.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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