This website runs on a virtual server installed along side of many other virtual servers which are installed together on a physical server installed in an Amazon EC2 data center in northern Virginia. Running a server virtually is far more efficient than running stand-alone hardware. These data centers use massive amounts of power, but they do use it efficiently. So, this is a pretty good way to run websites. It’s about as efficient as you can get in terms of per unit energy use for a website. I certainly don’t buy a giant energy-hungry refrigerator, store it outside on a hot day, and use it to store a single gallon of 2% milk and I wouldn’t use a power hungry server to host a single website.
Financially it is in Amazon’s incentive to use as little energy as possible. They pass energy costs on to their customers, which can raise prices, which can put them at a competitive disadvantage to bargain shoppers. So, their data centers are efficient and will continue to be so purely because it makes financial sense. But what about the energy that is used?
I suspect purely by chance Amazon hit and exceeded 50% power from renewable sources in 2018. This happened over a time period when renewable energy was hitting and exceeding price parity with fossil fuel sources and certain fossil fuels were simply becoming unprofitable. They bought and will continue to buy (or produce) power as cheaply as possible specifically and only because it is cheap. Right now that happens to be energy from renewable sources.
50% of Amazon’s power coming from renewable sources isn’t particularly impressive given the resources Amazon has at it’s fingertips. It it wanted to do more, it could. Amazon’s management lacks the will and ethics to acquire all of their power from renewable sources. Amazon is marking themselves as going green for the sake of responsibility, but really they are acting like any profit-over-everything company, like environmental sustainability is a PR issue rather than an existential threat to human civilization.
What bugs me about Amazon is that other super giant corporations have managed to hit 100% already. What have these other companies got that Amazon lacks? Will? Guts? Ethics? Talent? I don’t know exactly. I think Amazon will get there eventually, but they certainly aren’t acting like leaders when it comes to making this transition. I think I’d rather give my money to a company or companies that lead.
So, what am I going to do? Well, I’m already considering finding other hosting companies with a better energy mix. My site is so low-traffic and so low-weight that it can run on very low-power computers like a Raspberry Pi, so it could be hosted at home with solar power and batteries. But there are challenges. Check back again to see where I end up going with this project.