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article imageAmazon's clean energy pledge seemed to be over — until today

By Karen Graham     Apr 9, 2019 in Business
Seattle - Amazon has been accused of abandoning a much-publicized goal of running its data centers on 100 percent renewable energy, turning instead, to courting fossil fuel companies. However, Amazon's announcement today may come as a surprise to many people.
According to a Greenpeace report released on February 19 this year, some of Amazon's most important data centers in the state of Virginia are only powered by 13 percent renewable energy sources, and this doesn't include the soon-to-be-built second Amazon headquarters in Northern Virginia.
In 2012, tech giants, Apple, Facebook and Google announced they would pledge to power their expanding fleets of data centers with 100 percent renewable energy. In 2014, giving in to pressure from consumers and environmental groups, Amazon also pledged to power its data centers with 100 percent renewable energy, according to Gizmodo.
Across the company as a whole, Amazon reached 50 percent renewable energy usage in its data centers in 2018 and has not issued any updates since that time. Actually, this is rather slow progress towards the company's goals, compared to other tech companies. This has led some people to wonder if Amazon has abandoned its goal of turning to clean energy altogether.
Amazon now counts more than 25 robotic centers like the one at Staten Island  which chief technologi...
Amazon now counts more than 25 robotic centers like the one at Staten Island, which chief technologist for Amazon Robotics Tye Brady says have changed the way the company operates
Johannes EISELE, AFP/File
Today, The Guardian is reporting that according to internal Amazon documents viewed by Gizmodo, the tech giant endeavored to win over fossil fuel companies in 2017. This move was summed up by the presentation at Amazon Web Services’ annual company Sales Kick-Off event that February: “Positioning for Success in Oil & Gas.”
The public courting of fossil fuel companies led Greenpeace’s Elizabeth Jardim to say: “Despite Amazon’s public commitment to renewable energy, the world’s largest cloud computing company is hoping no one will notice that it’s still powering its corner of the Internet with dirty energy.
Virginia is at the center of the problem
Greenpeace's February report is entitled, “Clicking Clean Virginia – The Dirty Energy Powering Data Center Alley,” In the report, Greenpeace points out that 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic passes through data centers housed in a single county (Loudoun County) in Virginia, earning Northern Virginia the nickname “data center alley."
A woman walks outside a building in the Pentagon City neighborhood of Arlington  Virginia  that will...
A woman walks outside a building in the Pentagon City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, that will make up part of the new Amazon "HQ2" headquarters
Greenpeace also notes that dirty energy still powers most of that traffic. The total power demand to power the existing data centers and new ones under construction is approaching 4.5 gigawatts or roughly the same power output as nine large (500-megawatt) coal power plants.
Dominion Energy, the dominant local utility which has one of the lowest percentages of renewable electricity in the country, is using the rapid data center growth in Virginia from Amazon and other tech giants as an excuse to build more fossil fuel infrastructure like the $7 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
“Even before Amazon announced Northern Virginia would be its HQ2, the company was already a major electricity customer in the state. Without intervention from data center operators in Virginia like Amazon, the Internet will continue to drive carbon emissions with every click, swipe, and share,” Jardim said. “It’s time for Jeff Bezos to think beyond profit and accept responsibility for Amazon’s impact on the global climate.”
Amazon data center in Boardman  Oregon in 2013.
Amazon data center in Boardman, Oregon in 2013.
Visitor7 (CC BY-SA 3.0)
In all fairness to Dominion Energy, the company has been investing in renewables. In 2018, Dominion announced it was moving forward on clean energy projects, from sources such as solar and wind, to meet its commitment of 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy in operation or under development by 2022.
Dominion is one of only three investor-owned utilities to reduce its carbon intensity by more than 40 percent since 2000. The company already has projects in the works to expand grid reliability as well as a battery storage pilot and increases in energy efficiency programs over the next ten years.
The Amazon Customer Service Center in Kinetic Park in Huntington  West Virginia. Taken May 16  2013.
The Amazon Customer Service Center in Kinetic Park in Huntington, West Virginia. Taken May 16, 2013.
Wvfunnyman (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Amazon is full of surprises
According to a press release dated April 8, 2019, which by the way, is the same day the Gizmodo story came out, Amazon announced "three new renewable energy projects as part of its long-term goal to power all Amazon Web Services (AWS) global infrastructure with renewable energy. These projects – one in Ireland, one in Sweden, and one in the United States (California) – will deliver wind-generated energy that will total over 229 megawatts (MW) of power, with an expected generation of over 670,000-megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable energy annually.
The company notes AWS’s long-term commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy for its global infrastructure, citing the 50 percent renewable energy goal reached in 2018 for its data centers.
“Each of these projects brings us closer to our long-term commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy to power our global AWS infrastructure,” said Peter DeSantis, Vice President of Global Infrastructure and Customer Support, Amazon Web Services.
“These projects are well-positioned to serve AWS data centers in Ireland, Sweden, and the US. We expect more projects in 2019 as we continue toward our goal of powering all AWS global infrastructure with renewable energy.” Amazon has also set a goal to host solar energy systems at 50 fulfillment centers by 2020.
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