Facebook Gets Green Thumbs Up From Greenpeace

By David Cohen 

GreenpeaceLogo650Facebook scored high marks in a recent report on the “green Internet” by Greenpeace, as the environmental organization called out the social network’s transparency on environmental issues, its usage of renewable energy at its data centers, and its creation of the Open Compute Project.

Greenpeace said of Facebook in its report, “Clicking Clean: How Companies Are Creating the Green Internet”:

Facebook continues to grow and dominate the global social media landscape with 1.23 billion monthly active users. Facebook has made huge strides forward since 2012 to become one of the clear green Internet leaders. Radical improvements in transparency and efforts to deliver significant wind energy investment in Iowa have helped drive Facebook into the top tier of companies creating the green Internet. By building on the advocacy it has started with energy utilities to drive more clean energy investment, and continuing to find ways to bring renewable energy to scale to power its data centers in North Carolina and Oregon, Facebook is setting a clear bar for other major social media networks and Internet companies to follow.

Transparency: A

Following its shift to becoming a publicly held company, Facebook has drastically improved its transparency with annual reporting on its entire operation, broken down by location, operations, energy source, and purchasing contracts, with annual updates and comparisons. Facebook’s efficiency dashboards have won industry awards for innovation in sustainability reporting, including facility-level power usage effectiveness and water usage effectiveness.

Renewable Energy Commitment and Siting Policy: A

Facebook was one of the first companies to publicly announce a preference for renewable energy supply when siting its data center infrastructure in 2011. The social network subsequently selected Luleå, Sweden, which is powered by 100 percent hydropower, for its next data center. Facebook’s newest data center will be in Iowa, where its agreement to purchase 100 percent wind power has directly influenced the local energy utility to invest nearly $2 billion in wind energy to meet this significant increase in demand, resulting in the largest single purchase of wind turbines in the world.

Energy Efficiency and Mitigation: A

In addition to its long-term goal to be 100 percent renewably powered, Facebook has also established a near-term target to be 25 percent renewably powered by 2015, and it is regularly reporting on progress toward this goal. Facebook has continued to provide valuable leadership through the Open Compute Project, which it founded in 2010, and it is providing a critical forum to open-source energy efficiency best practices in data centers, helping to reduce energy demand across the sector.

Renewable Energy Deployment and Advocacy: B

Facebook has made a significant investment in securing a 100 percent wind contract in Iowa, which is helping to drive broader renewable energy investment in the state. Facebook — along with Google, Apple, and other major electricity consumers in North Carolina — played an important role in pushing Duke Energy to create a new renewable electricity tariff, and it is reported to be active in Oregon to establish a similar tariff program in that state. Facebook needs to identify how it can leverage these new tariff programs to bring new renewable energy onto the grid to power its operations in those states, or identify other pathways that will bring new renewable energy on the grid at scale to meet its rapidly growing energy needs. In 2014, Facebook joined Microsoft in advocating on behalf of distributed energy generation to the Iowa Utilities Board. Facebook’s strong reputation for climate change and renewable energy advocacy was tarnished in 2013 when it was revealed that the company donated money to CEI, a noted climate denying group, and became a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Readers: What did you think of Greenpeace’s commentary on Facebook?