Amazon wants to look good by empowering itself in clean energy

While the digital ecosystem is a very large emitter of CO2 (the main gas responsible for global warming), Amazon wants to lead by example. The mastodon will announce the launch of 37 new renewable energy production projects in the world on Wednesday, April 20. In detail, the Seattle company will finance three wind farms, 26 new solar farms and eight solar installations on the roofs of its own buildings.

In reality, Amazon does not build or operate these wind and photovoltaic parks itself, but signs partnerships to purchase long-term photovoltaic or wind power from developers at a guaranteed price. These long-term purchases then make it possible to finance the installation of new clean power plants. In slang we speak of “corporate PPA”, for Power Purchase Agreements or direct purchase contract.

310 projects worldwide

A large part of these projects will see the light of day in the United States, but some will also be realized in Europe. There will be three solar parks and two wind parks in Spain. Amazon is also financing a second solar park in France in Saint-Frichoux, near Carcassonne (Aude). It should be operational in 2025 and have a capacity of 23.4 megawatts (MW). In France, Amazon is already relying on a first 15 MW solar park installed in Préchac, near Agen (Lot-et-Garonne).

These 37 projects represent a total of 3.5 gigawatts (GW) of additional clean energy. The web giant is therefore pleased to increase its renewable energy capacity by almost 30%, from 12.2 GW to 15.7 GW. In total, Amazon is claiming 310 renewable energy projects in 19 countries around the world. Once in use, these projects (listed on this interactive map) will produce 42,000 GWh of energy per year, the e-commerce giant assures. This volume would supply more than 11 million European households, he illustrates.

Amazon is also investing in storage capacity. These systems, often battery-operated, make it possible to store the clean energy produced in large quantities by solar projects in the middle of the day and reuse it when solar energy is no longer available, such as in the evenings or during the periods of high demand.

Objective: to provide 100% of its activities with green energy

The Seattle-based company’s goal is to run 100% of its operations (offices, distribution centers and data centers of its Amazon web services sector) using renewable energy sources by 2025, ie five years ahead of its original target. Amazon has also committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. In doing so, it wants to be ten years ahead of the goals of the Paris agreement, which should make it possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial era.

Amazon’s case is not an isolated one. All Gafam (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft) are committed to this direction. For example, Apple aims for climate neutrality by 2030. The Apple company already claims to be CO2 neutral in its own activities. However, this is far from the case when the entire production chain is taken into account. In 2020, the ecological footprint was 22.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent.

Highly emitting and non-transparent web giants

These commitments are no accident. The global digital ecosystem emits much more than air transport (almost twice as much). According to studies, it is responsible for 2% to 4% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. On the scale of France, a Senate report attributes 15 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year to the sector, or 2% of total emissions in 2019.

In addition, studies point to the weakness of these web giants’ climate policies. In a recent report, the NewClimate Institute, based in Germany, and Carbon Market Watch, based in Brussels, point to the lack of transparency and integrity of the commitments made by major companies, such as Amazon and Google.

About Amazon, the authors write in particular:

“The company’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040 remains unfounded, with no explicit targets for corporate emissions reductions, with an important role for offsets.”