Are Apple's clean energy promises just hot air?

Posted by Emma Woollacott

In its latest report, Greenpeace has upgraded Apple's marks on clean energy, but says the company's still being vague about how it plans to move away from coal-fired power.

Back in April, a row erupted between the two, with Greenpeace casting doubt on Apple's claims that its Maiden, North Carolina datacenter consumes only 20 megawatts of power, all from renewable sources, and that 60 percent of this will eventually be delivered by an on-site solar farm.

And while Greenpeace now says that Apple is indeed cleaning up its act, it's still suspicious of its 'coal-free' pledge.

"Since Apple will have to buy much of its electricity in North Carolina 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," says spokesman David Pomerantz.

"Apple should 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 report coincides with Apple's decision to abandon the EPEAT environmental certification program this week, in a move that may cost it valuable business.

However, says Greenpeace,when it comes to energy use, the company's made 'important strides' towards the use of clean energy for the iCloud.

If it wants to improve its score, says Greenpeace, it should try and site data centers in areas where the grid is already clean, as facebook has done; and set steadily increasing renewable energy targets.

"Apple’s clean energy policies have significantly improved, but the company still gets low scores for its energy choices when compared with sector leaders," says Pomerantz.

"Despite a welcome commitment by Apple in May that its data centres will be coal-free and powered by 100 percent 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."