Amazon announces three new wind farms as report questions company’s clean energy commitment

Amazon announced three new wind farms on Monday as part of its long-term commitment to 100 percent renewable energy throughout its global infrastructure. But a separate report the same day questions that commitment, while probing the e-commerce giant’s connection to Big Oil.

Amazon’s three new wind farms will total more than 229 megawatts in three different countries — Ireland, Sweden, and the U.S. The Swedish and U.S. projects are expected to deliver energy by the end of 2020, while the Ireland project should be ready to go by the end of 2021.

Ireland and Sweden’s wind farms will provide roughly 91 MW each for the company, while a California project will offer 47 MW of capacity. The three projects are expected to generate more than 670,000 megawatt hours of energy annually in total.

Once completed, these three wind farms will join nine other AWS projects to generate more than 2,700,000 MWh of renewable energy annually. Peter DeSantis, Vice President of Global Infrastructure and Customer Support for Amazon Web Services, said,

“Each of these projects brings us closer to our long-term commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy to power our global AWS infrastructure. These projects are well-positioned to serve AWS data centers in Ireland, Sweden, and the US. We expect more projects in 2019 as we continue toward our goal of powering all AWS global infrastructure with renewable energy.”

Amazon’s release touts its long-term goal a number of times, and the company notes that AWS exceeded 50 percent renewable energy for its global infrastructure in 2018. But another report claims the company’s clean energy promises have “stalled out.”

Questioned Progress

Gizmodo reports that Amazon started a “concerted push to win over” oil and gas in 2017, according to internal company documents. An Amazon Web Services’ event that year featured a presentation with the title “Positioning for Success in Oil & Gas.” Gizmodo writes that over the past two years,

Earth’s most customer-centric company has aggressively courted the fossil fuels industry, landing deals and partnerships with companies like BP, Shell, and Halliburton, offering data-based services such as machine learning for enhanced exploration, internet of things-enabled oilfield automation, and remote site data transportation.

Gizmodo contends the company’s renewable energy deployment has plateaued — AWS claiming 50% renewable energy usage in January 2018 is the last update on Amazon’s sustainability timeline.

The article also cites a February 2019 Greenpeace report which claims Amazon Web Services is only meeting 12 percent of its renewable energy commitment. As Greenpeace wrote,

The expansion of Amazon and other cloud computing giants in Virginia’s “Data Center Alley” is further fueling climate change with new demand for dirty energy. Amazon Web Services, already one of the largest electricity customers in the state, appears to have abandoned its commitment to renewable energy, with evidence of a dramatic expansion in Virginia over the past two years without any additional supply of renewable energy.

Gizmodo says that a 2018 internal Amazon database of oil and gas accounts shows “current and targeted clients” like ExxonMobil and Chevron, and suggests the company is pursuing business relationships with the likes of BP, ConocoPhilips, Halliburton, Shell and more:

These documents, combined with industry pitches and case studies on AWS’s own website, show that beginning in at least 2017, Amazon has begun a targeted campaign to win oil, gas, and coal business at a time that scientists say it is imperative most fossil fuels be left in the ground if we are to avoid severe climate disruption. All while the company was reneging on, or at best indefinitely idling, its own pledges to build more clean energy.

The article goes much deeper into Amazon’s sustainability and clean energy plans — or the lack thereof. Neither Amazon nor AWS responded to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Electrek’s Take

Amazon has historically been notoriously secretive about everything from its own device sales numbers to its carbon emissions, but that may be changing a bit. The company announced its Shipment Zero initiative in February, which aims for 50% of all Amazon shipments to be net zero carbon by 2030. Amazon also said it will share its company-wide carbon footprint later this year.

With that secrecy, and through a number of announcements — including a 2017 wind farm announcement which saw founder Jeff Bezos standing atop a wind turbine — Amazon has probably managed to avoid some environmental scrutiny, but that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. The Gizmodo and Greenpeace reports are troubling — if not outright damning. We’ll see how often Amazon updates its sustainability timeline in the future, and if the company’s expected report later this year answers any questions.

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Phil Dzikiy is an Editor/Writer with Electrek/9to5Mac. Tips: