This is a huge disappointment considering that FB could have chosen power from an electric company offering a menu of choices, including renewable options. Presumably, the plant in Idaho powering FB's data center derives electricity from coal only. Or, worse yet, when faced with different options from the same plant, FB went for the cheapest option - coal. Of course, renewable energy can cost more sometimes, but, considering Facebook's mindshare of 350 million, the company should have taken the high road and chosen the environmentally sound option of clean energy, influencing individual attitudes and business culture in the process.
In STARK contrast, Google clearly lays out its approach to choosing electricity for data centers, http://www.google.com/corporate/green/footprint.html
"[W]hen buying power for our data centers, Google will use a “shadow price” for carbon. This voluntary pricing of carbon will enable us to calculate a more accurate cost of power as one of the key criteria in site selection for our data centers. The cost of carbon is not yet recognized by the U.S. market, but may soon become so through legislation. Pricing carbon is an important tool to reducing the financial risk that our energy investments face. Moreover, when evaluating power options, using a shadow price for carbon puts renewable energy on a more level playing field." http://www.google.com/corporate/green/footprint.html So, in contrast to FB, Google is willing to factor into the price of the energy it purchases for its data centers the negative externalities of environmental damage caused by carbon emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. And as if that were not commendable enough, Google has committed funding and grants to renewable energy research: "Google.org is taking several significant steps to advance RE
Through its choice of coal-fired electricity, you can infer a lot about FB's ethos: greed clearly takes priority over any desire to be a positive, transformative force in society. In this case, my hat really goes off to Google. Not only does their green energy mission statement, clearly explained on their website, amount to excellent corporate PR but they've actually put their money where their mouth is -- in terms of adopting a "shadow price" for carbon AND committing funds to renewable energy research.