Apple 100% Renewable Now or Never: Critical Response #2

In the article, “The Truth About Apple’s ‘100% Renewable’ Energy Usage” by the Center for Industrial Progress (CIP), it refutes Apple’s claim that the company “uses 100% renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind for many of its power needs, including its data centers.” The article explains that because of the sheer amount of energy Apple uses, it needs “cheap and reliable” energy for its day-to-day operations, and so it therefore, actually does use coal-powered electricity. The article continues to explain that Apple is able to claim to be 100% renewable by paying other companies in exchange for “green credits” as well by concealing from consumers where the renewable energy is and isn’t coming from. After doing some outside research, I simultaneously agree with what the CIP’s article is trying to say and also believe that much of the problem lies in Apple’s language and blind claims without any further explanation. In other words, I believe Apple’s using “100% renewable sources of energy” is a now a tangible goal for the future but as CIP mentioned, it is not currently functioning on 100% renewable sources of energy and is only seeming to thanks to the purchase of renewable energy certificates.

To further explain my argument, it is important to first clarify Apple’s claim. Despite the fact that the title of Apple’s Press Release is, “Apple now globally powered by 100 percent renewable energy” it only claims to have “25 operational renewable energy projects around the world, totaling 626 megawatts of generation capacity” and “15 more projects in construction” that will produce “1.4 gigawatts of clean renewable energy generation…across 11 countries.” However, earlier in the article, Apple claims to have “retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities in 43 countries,” which seems like a significant amount more of megawatt generation than those 40 projects are accounting for. In addition, the only time Apple’s press release ever explicitly claims to be run on “100% renewable energy” is when it comes to their data centers stating, “Since 2014, all of Apple’s data centers have been powered by 100 percent renewable energy” which, according to the Nicki Lisa Cole article, “Why Is Apple Lying About Powering Its Data Centers With Renewable Energy?” is also a false statement. However, before I explain the aforementioned article further, it should also be noted that according to a CNN article by Jackie Wattles titled, “Where Apple stands in its quest for 100% clean energy,” one year ago, Apple claimed that in order to be completely green, it would need to “generate and source from more than 4 gigawatts of new clean energy worldwide by 2020” and at the same time, it was only “less than a quarter of the way toward its 4 gig goal.” With all of this in mind, Apple has to be compensating for wherever it is lacking in order to make its claim of 100% which is why I agree with the CIP article’s explanation that Apple is buying “green credits” to make up for the non-renewable energy it uses.

As previously mentioned, an example of this buying “green credits” method Apple is using to maintain their 100% renewable sources powered status, appears in the Nicki Lisa Cole article, , “Why Is Apple Lying About Powering Its Data Centers With Renewable Energy?.” Despite the fact that Apple claims all of their data centers are run by renewable resources, further research went to show that this was not the case for the data facility in Maiden, North Carolina which only generated about 76% of its on-site energy from renewable resources. The rest of the energy needed to run the facility was bought from Duke Energy Carolinas, a company that uses about 33% nuclear energy, 50% from fossil fuels, and 15% from hydroelectric sources. In order to cover up the 24% of energy being provided to Apple’s data center by Duke, Apple purchases renewable energy certificates from a source called NC GreenPower which make it seem like it is getting that 27% from a renewable source, when in actuality, it isn’t just as the CIP article mentioned.

The data center in Maiden, North Carolina is one of Apple’s largest facilities, so if it is using such certificates in order to function one location, it is safe to conclude it is doing the same for other as well. One can also arrive at this conclusion even further because this is not something new large companies who use high levels of energy in order to operate. According to the article “Are Google & Apple Really “Powered” By Renewables? Understanding Corporate 100% Renewable Energy Policies” by Joshua S. Hill, over the past few years, many large companies like Apple have been encouraged by other companies like The Climate Group to “focus corporate attention towards renewable energy and other environmentally friendly, energy-related goals” which by doing so will lead to a positive economic outcome. In other words, if a company becomes 100% powered by renewable energy sources, it will have a payoff for doing so. This leads large companies like Apple to form Corporate Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) so that they may purchase power directly from an energy generator and eliminate the roadblock of building new renewable facilities. However, as mentioned in the example, although Duke would be the Corporate PPA in this case, “by March 2015 [they] had less than 0.02 percent renewable energy in its grid [distribution network].” However, with Renewable Energy Certificates, Apple can still claim they are getting their renewable energy from NC Greenpower, and the fact that this purchase is entirely legal and therefore common under a Corporate PPA goes to show easy it is for Apple to make the claim that they are powered by 100% renewable energy.

Simple research goes to show that many large companies are trying to claim 100% renewable energy powered operations because it is a smart business move for them. Unlike Apple, Google claimed that they had started implementing renewable energy but admitted to buying the rest, putting them at 100% purchased renewable energy as opposed to powered. By saying the word ‘powered’ it is as though Apple is already entirely dependent on renewable energy when in reality they are just offsetting the carbon footprint of their facilities and making their company sound more superior than others and less harmful to the environment than it actually is. I definitely agree with that the Center for Industrial Progress’s article, “The Truth About Apple’s ‘100% Renewable’ Energy Usage” is telling the truth. Despite the fact that Apple might have every intention of using 100% renewable energy in the future, I think it is more important for the sake of the Earth to focus on the tangible as opposed to a fabrication. I do believe Apple has helped the environment so far, but still has many problems that need a solution, and a lie, not matter how legal, is not going to change that.



The Truth About Apple’s ‘100% Renewable’ Energy Usage by the Center for Industrial Progress

Why Is Apple Lying About Powering Its Data Centers With Renewable Energy? by Nicki Lisa Cole

Are Google & Apple Really “Powered” By Renewables? Understanding Corporate 100% Renewable Energy Policies by Joshua S. Hill

Apple now globally powered by 100 percent renewable energy by Apple (Press Release)

Where Apple stands in its quest for 100% clean energy by Jackie Wattles

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