Blog Post

Facebook’s road to clean power will be a long one

It will be a slow, many-year process to push Facebook’s (s fb) data center operations to add in more clean power. This week Facebook unveiled its energy consumption and carbon emissions data for 2012, and it was pretty much the same (very slightly up) compared to 2011.

From 2011 to 2012 Facebook’s per-user carbon footprint was pretty much the same, and was actually a tad up, from 249 grams of carbon dioxide per monthly active user in 2011 to 294 grams of CO2 per monthly active user in 2012. That carbon footprint is basically the same as eating three bananas, or drinking one latte, or having a few glasses of wine. So, not much, though, collectively Facebook’s total energy consumption in 2012 was 704 million kWh, which is a sizable amount.

Facebook data centerThe lack of change shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as data centers can take a year and a half to build and the decision to add clean power to these facilities largely happens when the facility gets built. In 2012, Facebook said the breakdown of the energy mix it used was 19 percent clean power, 34 percent coal, 15 percent natural gas, 22 percent nuclear, and 10 percent uncategorized (power bought on the spot market).

Facebook is trying to reach 25 percent clean power by 2015. The percentage of Facebook’s clean power actually declined very slightly from 2011 to 2012, as the company expected, but will likely jump back up again as its Swedish data center (which will be entirely powered by clean hydropower) comes online.