At today's announcement, Apple, as it sometimes does, gave prominent stage time to the future of the planet. After an interlude from CEO Tim Cook, Lisa Jackson, Apple vice president of environment, policy, and social issues, stepped on stage to make an announcement: 93 percent of Apple's global operations now run on sustainable energy.
Progress in the industry has varied
It's an impressive number, but left out from the conversation was how the company's closest competitors have set similar environmental goals. Many are shooting for the same target: 100 percent renewable, and soon. And although Apple's energy report card puts at the top of similar companies, it's also not totally alone up there.
Google has said that it's the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world, and has also given itself the goal of 100 percent renewable energy. As part of a 2015 pledge, the company said it was planning to triple its purchases of renewable energy by 2025. Amazon has made similar promises. Its cloud computing service, Amazon Web Services, has also set a long-term goal of 100 percent renewable energy. Ditto for Facebook, which last year said the same.
Progress has varied in the industry. Google said last year that about 35 percent of its power is from renewable sources. Amazon has said its power was 25 percent renewable as of April of last year, and that it plans to be at 40 percent by the end of 2016. Facebook has said it plans to be at 50 percent by the end of 2018.
As Susanne Fratzscher, a senior consultant for renewable energy at the World Wildlife Fund, notes in an email to The Verge, "IT companies, through their energy-intensive data centres, are amongst the largest power consumers in the country." As for Apple specifically, she points to the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership list, which tabulates the percentages of renewable energy for several companies operating in the US.
Microsoft says it has used 100 percent renewable energy since 2014
According to the latest list, Apple is one of a few tech giants — including Microsoft and Intel — that use 100 percent green energy for their US-wide operations. (Microsoft says that it’s been 100 powered by renewable energy since 2014.) A handful of other tech companies also appear on the top 100 national section of that list, but the numbers don't aways stack up to Apple, either. Google: 34 percent. Dell: 54 percent. Samsung: 8 percent. (Not all tech companies are on the list — Amazon and Facebook, for example, are absent.)
"Apple's data center needs are smaller than giants like Google and Amazon, but Apple should be commended for pushing to 100 percent renewable electricity," Jonathan Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, said in an email.
"Apple has certainly worked hard to source renewable energy for its facilities in the US and abroad," Letha Tawney, Director of Utility Innovation at the World Resources Institute, said in an email, pointing to a 2015 Greenpeace scorecard that grades Apple as the only tech company with a 100 percent Clean Energy Index.
Perhaps more than many companies, though, Apple has also consistently used its big announcements to talk about its environmental initiatives — and generally has the kilowatts to back it up.
Update, 8:58PM ET: Includes additional outside comment.