The California-based iPhone maker scored full marks for transparency, renewable energy commitment, procurement and emissions mitigation in Greenpeace’s annual report  which measures energy performance across the IT sector.

Apple is recognised for playing a “catalytic role within its IT supply chain, pushing other IT data centre and cloud operators who help deliver pieces of Apple’s corner of the internet to follow their lead in powering their operations with renewable energy”.

Along with Google and Facebook – the other industry leaders in the report – Apple is singled out for maintaining a strong policy since adopting a 100% renewable commitment in 2012. According to the report, Apple provides the clearest and most detailed reporting of the tech giants on the energy performance of its own data centres, including its North Carolina hub which is 100% powered by solar and biogas energy.

Corporate advocates

The energy footprint of the IT sector is estimated to consume around 7% of the global electricity, and with an anticipated threefold increase in global internet traffic by 2020, this figure is expected to rise further.

The Greenpeace report highlights the leadership role played by Silicon Valley in the battle against climate change. Currently, tech companies like Apple and Facebook – the latter of which has a 50% renewables target in place for 2018 – are consuming large amounts of energy and, in efforts to switch to renewables, have often had to implement Purchase Power Agreements with large utility companies.

Facebook’s expansion of its own data centres and recent willingness to explore innovative solutions such as solar-powered drones provide compelling evidence that the tech giant is making access to renewable energy a core requirement for its growth strategy, the report states. Also cited is the emergence of tech firms including Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon as strong corporate advocates for climate and clean energy policy. Collectively forming the ‘Tech Amici’, the four companies recently filed a brief to support President Obama’s call to lower electricity sector emissions by 32% by 2030 as part of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Not every major player in the IT sector scored highly for environmental performance, however. The report states that Netflix – unlike other major video streaming platforms such as Apple, Facebook, or Google – does not regularly provide energy consumption data, greenhouse gas emissions, or the actual energy mix of its global operations.

With no current public commitment to adopting renewable energy, the report calls for Netflix to take greater responsibility and “apply itself, as other sector leaders have, to drive more renewable energy onto the grid to power its operations”.

Silicon sustainability

The report highlights an enver-increasing effort by the tech sector to implement low-carbon initiatives which build a sustainable future.

Google’s data centres and the offices for its 60,000 staff will be powered entirely by renewable energy from next year, in what the company has called a “landmark moment”. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Facebook have pledged to develop 60GW of renewable energy by 2025, as part of the newly launched Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA).

With 93% of Apple’s global facilities running on renewable energy, the company will soon begin to sell electricity generated from solar panels and farms, hydrogen fuel cells and biogas facilities located across the company’s biggest facilities including the Cupertino headquarters. In June, edie reported that Apple had quietly formed its own energy subsidiary which could see the company sell excess electricity to end-users across the US.

edie’s innovation month

The month of January sees edie shift the editorial spotlight to green innovation, with a series of exclusive interviews, features and podcasts running throughout the month to celebrate the very best of emerging clean technologies and low-carbon systems.

Change will not happen without genuine innovation and so this month will explore the bleeding edge where change is really happening. From emerging tech to new business models; breakthrough approaches and creative leaders, we’ll shine the spotlight on the real game-changers and sort the facts from the fads.

Read all of edie’s innovation content here.

George Ogleby

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