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Apple flexes its green muscles

Apple HQ

Apple has claimed it is now globally powered by 100% clean energy, as it brings another nine of its suppliers onto the green mission.

The firm now claims all retail stores, offices, data centres and co-located facilities across 43 countries are now powered 100% by clean energy, with the number of its suppliers committing to the same mission now up to 23. While this is a commendable achievement, it should be worth noting that ‘clean’ does not mean renewable.

“We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “After years of hard work we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone. We’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward-looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.”

The definition of clean energy is a source which does not pollute the atmosphere when used. This does not necessarily mean renewable sources such as wind or solar, but it does exclude oil and coal. There are also some grey areas when it comes to retail stores, which are powered by the public grid and therefore out of the control of the iLeader, though it does purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) as a means to compensate.

Once electricity is produced it is simply dumped onto the grid where it ‘mixes’ with all the other sources, whether they be coal, wind etc. Because of this, it is impossible to tell what ‘electricity’ is clean or not. When a renewable energy generator produces a megawatt-hour (MWh) of power it receives one REC, a certificate saying that it generated one MWh of electricity from clean sources, which it can sell. The electricity which Apple consumes might not be clean, but through the RECs, Apple can say that it is funding, and therefore sustaining, the production of clean energy.

While it is a bight of PR haziness, it should not take away from the Apple achievement which is of course impressive. Of course, these are examples which are out of the control of Apple, when it does have control the situation is a lot clearer.

Apple currently has 25 operational renewable energy projects around the world, totalling 626 megawatts of generation capacity. It also has 15 more projects in construction which once built, over 1.4 gigawatts of clean renewable energy generation will be spread across 11 countries. Some of the new projects include Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino (which you can see at the top of the article) which will be powered 100% by renewable energy, its new data centre in Waukee, Iowa, that will run entirely on renewable energy and as will the two new data centres in Denmark. This is on top of all the partnerships with local authorities and utilities.

Alongside its own commitments, Apple has been on a mission to get its suppliers to commit to a greener lifestyle. Some of the new committees include DSM Engineering Plastics, Luxshare-ICT and Quanta Computer. This will only be a fraction of the Apple supply-chain, but it is still a good achievement.

Committing to clean energy is of course a good PR exercise for the iChief and may also help it secure lucrative contracts with public sector organizations which have commitments to greener operations. But it is also a good news story, which are starting to get rarer.


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