A new Facebook group set up by Greenpeace is calling for Facebook to use 100 percent renewable energy within their data centers. This is a reinvigorated movement from the initial backlash against Facebook’s environmental policies at the beginning of February. The latest group has over 150,000 members, far more than any previous group that has attempted to get Facebook to change their environmental policies.
Is Facebook Hiding Something?
The Greenpeace group calls Facebook’s use of coal powered plants, Facebook’s “dirty little secret” but honestly, there’s nothing secretive about it. As a Facebook spokesperson explained back in early February:
…Our new data center will be receiving our power through PacifiCorp, which like most utilities has a diverse generation portfolio including hyrdo, geothermal, wind and coal… When it comes online in early 2011, the new Facebook data center will also be one of the most energy efficient in the world, featuring an innovative cooling system created for the unique climate characteristics in Prineville, Oregon.”
In other words, it’s up to PacifiCorp as to what energy resources are used. Unfortunately it’s extremely easy to criticize a company for a poor energy policy because the majority of this country is still run on coal. Is it possible for Facebook to run off completely renewable resources? Possibly, but it doesn’t make financial sense right now.
Businesses As Leaders
To suggest that Facebook didn’t consider energy efficiency when planning their data center would be pretty ridiculous. The reality is that there isn’t enough pressure from consumers for businesses to act in an energy efficient way. In many cases it also doesn’t make financial sense. However some companies are being extremely proactive by testing out new energy models (as Google, eBay, and a number of others are doing with the Bloom Box) despite it not being the most cost effective.
Google also funds a foundation which invests in new forms of energy. While holding Facebook to high standards is not an outrageous concept, there needs to be a greater awareness of the environmental impact of our own behavior. When you search Google or log in to Facebook, there’s no way of knowing what the impact is on the environment. While I believe we are heading in the direction of more transparency when it comes to our consumption habits, the trend may not be happening fast enough as Bill Gates suggests in the following video:
While it would be awesome if Facebook could announce “We are 100% powered by renewable energy sources”, it probably makes more sense to go after those companies who have greater cash reserves to fund new energy projects. While I’m personally a fan of using renewable energy sources, I also think Greenpeace should go after larger companies. Then again, Facebook is a buzz worthy company, so perhaps their strategy isn’t a poor one.
Do you think Facebook should be 100 percent powered by renewable energy sources despite the cost inefficiencies? Do you think it’s even possible?