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Apple still scores low despite coal-free pledge

Apple’s clean energy policies have significantly improved, but the company still gets low scores for its energy choices when compared with sector leaders, a new Greenpeace International analysis reveals.

Despite a welcome commitment by Apple in May that its data centres will be coal-free and powered by 100% renewable energy, the analysis reveals that Apple still lacks a plan that outlines a realistic path to eliminate its reliance on coal to power its iCloud.

The analysis, “A Clean Energy Road Map for Apple” is a follow-up evaluation to Greenpeace International’s April “How Clean is Your Cloud?” report, which ranked companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Apple on their renewable energy policies.

This latest analysis updates the scores to account for Apple’s new announcements and found that Apple’s plans to make its three existing data centres “coal-free” are still far from complete.

Apple’s clean energy score improved to 22.6% from 15.3%, and its grades in the “Renewables and Advocacy” and “Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation” categories correspondingly improved to Cs from Ds. However, Apple received a D for its “Energy Transparency” and a D in the “Infrastructure Siting” category.

Apple’s coal and nuclear energy scores decreased, but could go down more if Apple were to reveal viable plans for how it will power its rapidly expanding data centres without the use of coal. It now uses 33.5% coal energy to power its cloud, down from 55.1% in April, and 11.6% nuclear energy, down from 27.8 in April.

The analysis includes a checklist for how Apple can make good on its coal-free iCloud pledge. Apple says solar panels and fuel cells will provide 60% of the electricity for the first phase of its data centre in North Carolina, and will turn to regional renewable energy providers for the remaining 40%.

However, since Apple will have to buy that electricity from Duke Energy, the only electric utility in the area – and one which also relies heavily on coal – Apple cannot be coal-free without pushing Duke toward that goal as well.

Apple should instead use its buying power as one of Duke Energy’s anticipated top 10 customers to demand that Duke provide it with clean energy, not mountaintop removal coal.

 The Clean Energy Road Map also explains exactly how Apple can make good on its coal-free promise for its Oregon data centre, and what kinds of policies it should adopt to extend its coal-free promises to its inevitable data centre expansion as the iCloud continues to grow.

16-Jul-2012 06:33:42
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