April 16, 2014
Hey gang, just noticed that our friends at Greenpeace have released their latest annual ratings on corporate data center commitment to renewable energy, and they’ve expanded things to include a few more of our friends. Along with old standbys like Google, Apple and Yahoo, they’ve decided to add providers like Digital Realty, DuPont Fabros and Equinix to their list of shame. Naturally, none of the new list members fared particularly well under Greenpeace’s ratings scheme, with an average grade of D across their four element rubric. My marketing guy says that these scores resemble his freshman year grades, but unlike his parents who were somewhat less than enthused with his scholastic performance, I say bravo to our D average peers. Rather than spending millions of dollars on inefficient “green” technologies to curry favor with a bunch of ideologues who would deny a thirsty man a drink because it would mean less water for the fish, our compatriots are busy providing solutions to their customers using proven economical and energy efficient methodologies.
Apparently Greenpeace—or as I like to think of them, the modern day Druids—feels that the best way to express their petulant denial of the fact that companies exist to provide value for their shareholders and (gasp) jobs, is to use vehicles like this report to assault their corporate images. To their credit, and much to the consternation of many members of American educational community, Greenpeace is not in the self-esteem boosting business. As a result, no one at DuPont should be expecting one of those “I’m someone special because my company loves the planet” bumper stickers any time soon. This doesn’t mean, however, that they are not immune to using motivational tactics that many of us would remember from our long ago report cards. In the same vain of “Chris would do better if he only tried a little harder”, they attempted to prompt Digital Realty to greater heights of greenness by stating, “If (Digital Realty) made a commitment to renewable electricity, working to phase in clean energy in collaboration with its customers across the globe, the company would become a driving force for building a green internet, far bigger than even Google is currently”. Wow, is that aspirational or what? Can a self-driving electric car announcement be far off in Digital’s future?
As we’ve discussed before, green (for lack of a better term) isn’t so much an environmentally driven imperative as it is an economic one. Money saved due to reduced power costs go directly to a firm’s bottom line. What Greenpeace refuses to acknowledge is, that in most instances, the use of alternative sources of power (wind or solar for example) carry with them price tags that are cost prohibitive outside the realm of the Googles and Apples of the world. This doesn’t mean that a DuPont or Digital isn’t committed to green operation, it just means that they are not using the methodologies that Greenpeace has deemed acceptable. The other question that Greenpeace seems to overlook is to what end do the use of renewable or alternate sources of energy affect the climate from a macro perspective? Leaving aside the fact that the average temperature of the planet hasn’t risen in 17 years, the US carbon emissions rate has dropped to 1993 levels despite the proliferation of data centers (whose average PUE continues to decline, so wouldn’t their efforts be better served by kicking countries with proliferating emissions like China in the shins? I mean you can’t even look across the street in Beijing through all the green smog.
As economic entities, the obligations of companies like DuPont and Digital, and the rest of our provider brethren, are to provide our customers with the best solutions that we can, in the most cost effective manner possible. Since we are all rational actors in our efforts to deliver energy efficient solutions, our decisions should be dictated by the economics of the marketplace and not in ill-advised efforts to placate the myopic rants of organizations that demand we bend to their will to the exclusion of all other considerations. Through their choices companies like DuPont and Digital are fulfilling their corporate, customer and environmental obligations. As for Greenpeace, other than periodic comic relief, is there any real reason to pay attention to these guys. In other words, on the big report card of societal benefit let’s just give these guys an F and move on.