How cloud technology can help sustainable business growth

August 18, 2023 | 07:20
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The world is continuing to embrace data analytics innovation, and digital transformation. We are starting to see the rise of technologies like AI, machine learning, and the Internet of Things. Policy counterparts, industry groups and others are also trying and unblocking hurdles to meet their own sustainability goals, and their climate ambitions.

On this path, we need to be sustainable. And we believe the cloud can play an important role as it is the most sustainable digital infrastructure possible available today.

How cloud technology can help sustainable business growth
Ken Haig, AWS head of Energy and Environment Policy for Asia-Pacific and Japan

The amount of data that we need to process and the amount of compute and storage power that we're going to need is going to increase over time. And the challenge is, how we make sure that this digitalisation and decarbonisation go in a mutually reinforcing way.

The International Energy Agency has put out a report that shows over the last decade, internet use and the amount of data used via the internet or via the cloud has increased exponentially.

We have just co-published a report a couple of months back with Bain & Company and Temasek and GenZero. Essentially, it was looking at the progress of climate ambitions for Southeast Asia and trying to map where the gaps are.

Countries that have got young populations, have strong economic prospects, but also challenging competing priorities that are needed to meet national climate goals.

If you look at the amount of energy that's needed, just by 2030 we're going to need a 42 per cent increase in energy consumption. At the same time, by 2030, we also need to reduce regional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 33 per cent. So, we will need a lot more energy, and we’re also going to need a lot more zero carbon energy.

At AWS, we have large sustainability goals. The first is a 2040 net-zero carbon goal.

When I joined Amazon just a few years ago. I was thrilled to see not only a continued decrease in the carbon intensity of our operations, but an actual reduction in absolute carbon emissions in terms of on-year growth.

We have 100 per cent renewable energy goal now by 2025. And we're on track to meet that globally. According to the AWS 2022 Sustainability Report, we're actually up to 96 per cent renewable energy across our global operations.

We have been trying to get others to join us in that goal. Amazon co-founded and became the first signatory of The Climate Pledge in 2019, and committed to become net-zero carbon by 2040. The Climate Pledge now has over 400 signatories, across 55 industries and 38 countries.

At AWS, we focus on three areas for sustainability. One is sustainability of the cloud. Second is sustainability in the cloud. And the third part is sustainability through the cloud.

Sustainability of the cloud is essential to sustainability of our infrastructure. AWS is committed to running its business efficiently to reduce our impact on the environment, and our strategy covers energy efficiency, renewable energy, water stewardship, and waste reduction. All our customers across ASEAN benefit from our sustainability efforts.

Sustainability in the Cloud allows AWS customers to reduce associated energy usage by nearly 80 per cent. But we can achieve much more by collectively designing sustainable architectures. This is why AWS recently introduced the new Sustainability Pillar of the AWS Well-Architected Framework to help organisations improve their sustainability in the cloud.

The Sustainability Pillar helps organisations develop a better understanding of the impact of their workloads, measure progress towards their IT sustainability targets, and model what they cannot directly measure.

Innovation is key to achieving sustainability goals challenges such as decarbonisation of operations to water conservation are addressed through technologies that drive sustainable transformation.

AWS enables customers to build sustainability solutions ranging from carbon tracking to energy conservation to waste reduction, using AWS services to ingest, analyse, and manage sustainability data. AWS offers the broadest and deepest set of capabilities in AI, machine learning, Internet of Things, data analytics, and computing to reach your organisation's sustainability goals.

We focus on efficiency across all aspects of our infrastructure, from the design of our data centres and our hardware, to modelling and tracking performance of our operations to ensure we continue to identify opportunities to increase efficiency.

One of the most visible ways AWS is using innovation to improve power efficiency is our investment in AWS chips. Our third generation Arm-based chip, AWS Graviton3, is more energy efficient, using up to 60 per cent less energy for the same performance as comparable chips.

In renewable energy, Amazon is on a path to powering our operations with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025, five years ahead of the original target.

Amazon is the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy, with more than 400 projects around the world. In 2022, Amazon will reach 90 per cent renewable energy across its business. In Indonesia, Amazon announced a first-of-its-kind agreement with PLN in 2022 for 210 MW of renewable energy capacity across four utility-scale solar projects in the Java-Madura-Bali grid.

In Singapore, Amazon has invested in two renewable energy projects – a 62MW solar project with Sunseap, and a 17.6MW project with Sembcorp.

To encourage corporate renewable energy options regionally, we actively work with organisations such as the Asia Clean Energy Coalition, Japan Climate Leaders Partnership, Renewable Energy Demand Enhancement initiative in India, and the Clean Energy Investment Accelerator in Indonesia.

We also have AWS specific water positive goals by 2030, returning more water to communities than it uses in its direct operations. AWS is already well on the path to becoming water positive, and is innovating to lower water use across facilities by using cloud technologies to continually improve water efficiency and investing in projects that deliver water back to communities. Recycled water is used for cooling at 20 data centres around the world, with plans to expand to more.

We're also engaged in community water reuse and water replenishment programmes. This includes our work with in Indonesia, which partner with community banks to finance rural water utilities that work to improve access, water services, water connection and expand infrastructure. This effort positively impacted over 35,000 people in Java.

All in all, there are many good examples of how AWS is doing in its net-zero and sustainability journey.

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By Ken Haig

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