The two largest telecommunications companies in the country – Verizon and AT&T – are being urged by Green America to rapidly adopt renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Both companies are currently using less than 2% of renewable energy, putting them far behind many leaders in the tech industry, including Apple and Google, which have met their goals of using 100% renewable energy.
Telecom competitor Sprint is also ahead of AT&T and Verizon, with a goal of securing 10% of the company’s energy from renewable sources by 2017.
“AT&T and Verizon are clearly behind the curve when it comes to adopting renewable energy to power their massive data centers,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Consumer and Corporate Engagement at Green America.
The new campaign is on Green America’s website, Facebook page, and a dedicated action page, to mobilize customers nationwide to call on AT&T and Verizon to make public commitments of 100% renewable energy in their operations by 2025.
“As more and more companies recognize their obligations to lower their emissions and help the U.S. meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accords, our two largest cell phone providers are clearly lagging behind leaders like Google and Apple,” Larsen added. “Now is the time for both companies to make a commitment and provide a timeline to get to 100% renewable energy.”
“With clean energy sources growing rapidly in the U.S. and prices coming down, more and more companies are getting on board with 100% clean energy commitments,” said Beth Porter, climate campaigns director at Green America. “AT&T and Verizon both recognize the urgency of climate change and the need for action, now we need to see that concern translate into commitments to purchase of wind and solar power.”
AT&T uses approximately 15 million MW of electricity per year and Verizon uses over 10 million MW. Their combined electricity usage is enough to power 2.6 million homes. The combined emissions from operations are equal to nearly four million cars on the road for one year.
“Customers of AT&T and Verizon expect both companies to be leaders,” said Fran Teplitz, executive co-director of business, investing, and policy at Green America. “As those customers increasingly use data, and drive demand for power-hungry servers, both companies need to move to renewable energy sources quickly to lower the impact of their operations on the planet.”
Last year in the U.S., there were 207 million people with access to data networks via their smartphones. Not only is this number expected to rise to nearly 264 million users by the end of 2021, but each user’s data consumption also expected to increase by a factor of six over the same time period, creating a growing demand for energy to power these networks.
To ensure security and accessibility, the servers that store data and keep the network up must be kept running for 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, using massive amounts of electricity. Unfortunately, with only one to 2% of the electricity generated or purchased by Verizon and AT&T comes from a renewable energy source like wind or solar, both companies are relying heavily on fossil fuels for their energy, which contributes to climate change.
Despite rapid growth in cellular data demands over the past several years, both AT&T and Verizon have managed to keep their energy use relatively constant. On their websites, they highlight their efforts to reduce their energy intensity; a measurement of efficiency, which is the amount of network traffic per megawatt of electricity (petabytes/megawatt).
While energy efficiency is a crucial step, AT&T and Verizon are still using millions of megawatts of electricity, mostly supplied by fossil fuels, and contributing to the rise in global greenhouse gas emissions.