Facebook Greens Up

Unfriend Coal

Facebook has announced they will begin collaborating with Greenpeace, the site’s most “liked” environmental nonprofit organization, as part of a major push to eventually power their data centers with clean and renewable energy.

“Facebook looks forward to a day when our primary energy sources are clean and renewable, and we are working with Greenpeace and others to help bring that day closer,” said Marcy Scott Lynn of Facebook’s sustainability program. “As an important step, our data center siting policy now states a preference for access to clean and renewable energy.”

Facebook’s announcement comes nearly two years after Greenpeace launched its global Unfriend Coal campaign, which called on Facebook to power its data centers with clean energy instead of coal. Unfriend Coal’s Facebook page was “liked” by over 700,000 people in 14 countries, and in a rally for Facebook to “go green” by this past Earth Day, more than 80,000 supportive comments in over 11 languages were posted on Unfriend Coal’s wall in a span of just 24 hours, setting the Guinness World Record for the most Facebook comments in one day. The Unfriend Coal campaign has officially ended with Facebook’s new announcement.

“After 20 months of mobilizing, agitating and negotiating to green Facebook, the Internet giant has today announced its goal to run on clean, renewable energy,” Greenpeace stated last Thursday. “The clear message to energy producers from Facebook is: invest now in renewable energy, and move away from coal power. That’s a status update we can all celebrate!”

Both parties plan to take on a range of endeavors, including ongoing research into clean energy solutions for Facebook’s future data centers as well as conversing with utility providers about increasing the supply of renewable power to Facebook’s current data centers. They will also promote energy efficiency to Facebook users through an upcoming Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and OPower affiliated social energy application. According to the NRDC, improvements in energy efficiency have the potential to deliver more than $700 billion in cost savings in the U.S. alone. Motivating consumers to take action, they add, is the key to unlocking this potential.

“Social networking represents the next frontier in delivering consumer energy savings,” said Dan Yates, cofounder and CEO of Opower. “This application will give users the ability to share their personal energy use information with like-minded individuals—fostering more conversations about energy savings and engaging a broader segment of the population, one that may have had little interest in energy efficiency to date. This application is about giving consumers the information and motivation they need to use energy more efficiently.”

As the already significant energy used to power data centers is projected to grow 12% or more per year, Facebook and Greenpeace will also encourage other large energy users and producers to utilize clean energy rather than re-commission coal plants or build new coal plants. Greenpeace’s website now includes links for visitors to tweet Facebook’s new environmental incentives to executives at Microsoft, Apple and Twitter.

“Facebook’s commitment to renewable energy raises the bar for other IT and cloud computing companies such as Apple, IBM, Microsoft and Twitter,” said Casey Harrell, Senior IT Analyst for Greenpeace International. “The Facebook campaign proved that people all over the world want their social networks powered by renewable energy and not by coal.”