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AWS Responds To Calls for Energy Use Transparency Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS), is a central point of concern regarding corporate disclosures of energy use and environmental impacts. A consortium of customers and an environmental group have been pressing Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) to disclose energy-related details from its vast network of distributed datacenters all over the globe. It responded, though in part, to requests for more environmental information in a blog entry titled “Cloud Computing and Server Utilization & the Environment” last week. The circumstances that led to this blog post are:

  • Greenpeace, an environmental organization, published a May report entitled “Clicking clean: A Guide for Building the Green Internet.” It stated that Amazon’s commitment to a 100 percent renewable energy goal is significant but lacks transparency. Unlike similar commitments by Apple, Facebook, or Google, it does not appear to be guiding Amazon in its investment decisions towards renewable energy. AWS was among two companies that received an “F” grade in any evaluation. [Click on the image to see a larger view.] AWS gets a “D” grade (source: Greenpeace).
  • A group of 19 AWS customers sent Andrew Jassy a letter. They suggested that the company take three steps to increase customer confidence in its commitment towards renewable energy. These included: “Commit transparency on energy performance and energy consumption, including publishing information about AWS’ carbon footprints and progress towards renewable energy goals.”
  • Media outlets reported on this issue with headlines such as: “AWS customers want more information on its renewable energy plans”; “AWS customers demand Amazon come clean on cloud power”; and “AWS customers demand transparency on energy use.”
  • This led to Jeff Barr’s blog post last Friday. Although Barr didn’t answer the calls directly, he addressed the larger issue within the context of the Greenpeace report’s criteria. “I read James Hamilton’s blog entry “Greenpeace, Renewable Energy and Datacenters” a few weeks ago. I then looked at the Greenpeace report about datacenter power consumption and noticed that it is unusual for an environmental report not to include energy conservation as a primary criteria. Barr did some math on some energy measurements, and made some general observations about cloud computing’s environmental benefits.

    • Cloud customers use 77 percent less servers than traditional customers.
    • Cloud customers consume 84 percent less power.
    • Cloud customers can reduce their carbon emissions by 88%

    Barr reiterated the company’s commitment 100 percent renewable energy usage. He also provided some supporting evidence. Barr also pointed to the Sustainable Energy Web page, which updated company information last month. It reported that 25 percent of the company’s energy comes from renewable energy, with 40 percent expected by the end next year. Barr concluded that cloud computing has an environmental argument that is strong. He expects that the overall equation will only improve in the future.