Renewable energy directly from
an electric company
renewable energy production
Hosting companies marketing themselves as Green
Hosting providers range from companies having their own solar panels to few
which merely aim to compensate their emission by planting trees. Between these
extremes there are all kinds of solutions claiming to make their web hosting
environmentally friendly. Instead of reviewing the environmental aspects of
each green hosting provider individually, we will look at all these available
options in general.
Before going into detail about solutions related
to energy production, we must emphasize that significant emission reductions can
only be achieved through energy savings and energy efficiency (this is equally
true with global emission reductions outside the web hosting industry). Due to the
higher costs associated with renewable energy, Green hosting providers have more
incentive to make sure their data centers are as energy efficient as possible.
This is one of the reasons why choosing any green hosting provider,
regardless of where they get their energy, is better than ordinary "non-green"
Here are the alternatives in the order of
environmental impact (each case is explained below):
Own renewable energy productionRenewable energy directly from
an electric companyGreen CertificatesCarbon OffsettingPlanting trees
are two web hosts listed here on Greener Web Hosting which actually produce
their own renewable energy with solar panels. These are
Having your own renewable energy production is
by far the best Green hosting option as far as the environment is concerned.
If you want a truly green website – consider
Buying wind or solar energy directly from an
electric company can be almost as good as having your own power production. If
you buy renewable energy from a company which only uses renewable energy
sources, you can be sure that this is what you pay for.
On the other hand, if the company uses a
mixture of renewable and non-renewable power production, the situation becomes
much more complicated. The electric companies can only sell as much green
energy as they produce and hence by buying green electricity you encourage the
development of new renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, in real life this
doesn't always result in more renewable energy production.
Let's say a power company X uses a mixture of wind, coal, natural gas and
nuclear power. To make this easy, let's say each
of these energy sources accounts for 25% percent of the energy production.
Suppose there is not that much demand for renewable energy at the moment and
the company X, sells only 10% of it's electricity to consumers and companies
as green energy. In this case, even if the demand would suddenly double, this
would still have no direct effect what-so-ever. There would still be no need
for the company X to build more wind turbines as the existing wind power is
more than enough to meet the demand. In the long run, this might have an
effect and guide the decisions when company X is investing in new power
generation – or it might not.
The situation is exactly the same when you are
purchasing green energy as a consumer. If you can find one, it is better to
buy your electricity from an electric company which uses only renewable
sources. If there aren't any available, any kind of Green Energy is still
better than nothing at all.
Here is one hosting provider using renewable energy bought directly from a local electric
Carbon neutral via offsetting
Most green hosting companies don't really have wind
turbines or solar panels on the roof tops of their server rooms.
Instead they have calculated their electricity use and bought
Certificates (also known as Renewable Energy Certificates - RECs) or Green Tags to cover 100% of their
energy use. Some have gone even further and decided to buy more Green
Certificates than they actually use. For example
Perma Host covers 130% of their energy use
with Green Certificates.
Green Certificates are never quite the same as
actually producing your own renewable energy with wind turbines or solar panels.
But for hosting companies located in city centers green certificates are often
the only option
for web hosting with green power and much better
than not investing in green electricity at all.
If you have bought enough
Green certificates to cover your energy use, you can claim to be using
renewable energy. Still, this does not necessarily lead to emission reductions
(see previous chapter above for details). Green certificates are not as bad as
they might sound – Green certificates are infact far better than carbon
The idea of carbon offsetting is to pay for "projects", such as renewable
energy power generation in developing countries or planting trees, to compensate for your own
Offsetting alone is by no means
enough to be able claim that your website is powered with renewable energy.
The whole concept of becoming carbon neutral through offsetting is dubious.
Here is an absolutely hilarious website about the concept of carbon
offsetting and questions concerning the whole idea: Cheat Neutral.
Greener Web Hosting does not recommend green hosting companies which rely
solely on carbon offsetting.
Even though relying on carbon offsetting is not
enough for a web hosting company to become green, it can still be an added
bonus. Some green hosting companies, like
Dream Host, have calculated all their
emissions including those from their offices and employees commuting to work
and use offsetting to become carbon neutral. The important part is that they
use Green Certificates to power their data centers and only rely on carbon
offsetting to compensate for other emissions which they can't deal with via
With all hosting companies there will be some
emissions left and using carbon offsetting for those emissions is obviously
better than doing nothing at all.
This is the least effective green
hosting solution, because it does not even try to encourage building new
renewable energy production and relies completely on offsetting. It's better
than nothing, but not much.
When you want to have any considerable
environmental impact, you should always think in terms of how to change the
direction of progress. When you simply plant a few trees, you might be able
to store some CO2 in the trees for some time. But that's it – this will have
no further effect what-so-ever. Even worse, there is no quarantee that the
carbon will stay stored in the trees for long.
Now let's see what you can do to really make
an impact: Make it count.