Are tech companies pursuing oil instead of renewable energy?

Is Amazon aggressively pursuing oil and gas businesses, apparently switching its previous focus on renewable energy, and (according to some) abandoning its goal of running its data centers on 100% renewable energy, goal which was announced on 2014? 

According to a Greenpeace report from February 2019, Amazon reached 50% usage of renewable energy in all its buildings in 2018; but it seems to have stalled since then. In the past years, Amazon has landed deals with oil giants like Shell, BP and Halliburton by offering them data-based services like remote site data transmission and oilfield automation. Despite Amazon’s new seemingly focus on oil and gas, we should remember that its CEO, Jeff Bezos, joined Bill Gates’ investment fund focusing on fighting climate change. Amazon also recently announced (April 2019) that it has three renewable energy projects currently under development in Ireland, Sweden, and the U.S. The partnerships between Amazon and oil companies is going to help the latter increase their production outputs through technology and better monitoring. Yes, Amazon will help increase oil production, which does not align with fighting climate change; but for Amazon, the partnership is a way to position itself as a solution supplier to some of the biggest companies in the world, which is a good business growth strategy and a form of offering new services to new customers. This does not mean that in the future these partnerships will not be useful to Amazon when it comes to its powering needs; but let us hope that the company keeps investing in renewable energy and striving to reach its renewable goals.

Similarly, Microsoft and Exxon Mobil have joined in partnership where Microsoft’s cloud data, mobile apps, and artificial intelligence will help Exxon to collect data to monitor their wells in the Permian Basin, which will help them meeting their 2025 Permian production goal of 600,000 boepd (barrels of oil equivalent per day).

However, these large tech companies keep aspiring to renewable energy goals and are in the right track on achieving them. For example, Google announced in 2017 that the company had reached its 100% renewable energy use goal. Likewise, Apple announced its success reaching the 100% goal in 2018; and Facebook is committed to do the same by 2020. Greenpeace reports that in Northern Virginia, also known as the “data center alley” as it is the largest data center hub in the world, Facebook has reached 37% of its renewable energy use goal, Microsoft 34%, and Amazon 12%.

Even though it is a work in progress, tech companies’ commitment to the environment seems to be steady. The goal of powering data-centers and other infrastructure on 100% renewable energy is ambitious; but not impossible. However, the technology for different types of renewable energy needs to keep improving so cost-efficiency increases. Then, maybe more companies can jump on the green bandwagon.


Grist (grist.org), Gizmodo (gizmodo.com), Greenpeace (greenpeace.org), Commercial Property Executive (cpexecutive.com)


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