With mixed feelings from citizens, Amazon has an ever-growing presence in Virginia. In any case, the internet giant is bringing a significant amount of commerce to the Commonwealth. While we should be pleased that Virginia is thriving as a state attractive to business, we also must ensure that these companies are not doing more harm than good. With Amazon, in particular, one danger is the immense amount of energy being consumed.
Amazon’s most significant energy need comes from its data centers. Data centers across the US use more than 90 billion kW/h of electricity per year. This is the equivalent of 34 fully operational coal-fired power plants committing their full capacity. According to a report publicized by Greenpeace at the beginning of last year, Amazon’s Virginia data centers were being powered by only 12% renewable energy, compared to its country average of 50%. This seemed to fly in the face of its commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Is such a commitment even plausible for such a large and global company? Apple has proven it is. As of 2018, Apple boasted 100% renewable energy across its retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities in 43 countries.
How is Amazon doing since Greenpeace released its report? The answer is “better.” It has invested in large-scale renewable projects across the country, including a solar project in Accomack County, Virginia. This is largely done through power purchase agreements with developers of renewable energy. Amazon now says it is up to 40% renewable energy across its operations.
One major hurdle for Amazon, not shared by Google or Apple, is its fleet of delivery vehicles. Approximately 66% of crude oil consumed in the U.S. goes into vehicles, presenting an opportunity for Amazon to get ahead of the renewable game. It has already committed to buying 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian, a manufacturer of electric vehicles.
It is safe to say Amazon is taking its commitment more seriously of late. However, as Amazon continues to make itself at home in our state, we must ensure that it remains committed to its goal of renewable energy.