Ethical consumerism non-profit Green America has flunked one of America’s leading telecoms, Verizon, in its Wireless Scorecard, even as the company’s rivals passed with flying colors in an industry that is more and more looking to clean up its energy usage.
Green America this week published its latest report, Clean Energy Is Calling, in which it reviews the four major telecoms in the United States — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Collectively, the four companies use more than 3 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electric power each year. AT&T and Verizon together — the two leading carriers in the country — use enough electricity it could power the equivalent of 2.6 million homes each year.
In recent months we have seen some of America’s telecoms making large strides to clean up their energy usage, most visibly a month ago when T-Mobile announced not only that it was committing to using 100% renewable electricity by 2021 as part of its #CleanUpWireless Challenge but that it was also committing $500,000 to a non-profit dedicated to advancing clean energy initiatives. T-Mobile promised to double or triple its investment commitment if its big rivals — AT&T and Verizon — also committed to investing.
It’s important to remember, also, that T-Mobile’s flashy #CleanUpWireless Challenge commitment was also backed by existing work to secure renewable electricity supplies. T-Mobile already had a 160 MW (megawatt) Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in place with the 300 MW Red Dirt wind farm in Oklahoma, care of Enel Green Power, and as part of its announcement earlier this year revealed it had signed a second PPA with Infinity Renewables for 160 MW from the 474 MW Solomon Forks Wind Project in Kansas.
T-Mobile and Green America have also been quick to highlight a February announcement from rival telecom AT&T, which saw the company reveal it had completed its own PPA for 520 MW of wind energy from wind farms across Oklahoma and Texas thanks to NextEra Energy Resources. Though it was not obvious, both T-Mobile and Green America seemed to give the impression that its #CleanUpWireless Challenge had spurred rivals to action, but Power Purchase Agreements are not overnight deals, and AT&T’s announcement was likely in the works long before T-Mobile revealed its own intentions.
That said, there is obviously a sea change sweeping through the US telecom industry, as highlighted by Green America’s new report and wireless scorecard. Overall, T-Mobile passed with A-, Sprint was awarded a lesser C and AT&T a C-, but Green America flunked Verizon with Fs across the board.
“Verizon is flunking when it comes to adopting renewable energy, and AT&T and Sprint aren’t doing much better,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Consumer and Corporate Engagement at Green America. “T-Mobile deserves credit for stepping up and being best in its class. To reduce our climate emissions at the speed and scale necessary to address the climate crisis, all companies should shift to 100 percent renewable energy within the next decade. If companies like Apple and Google can achieve 100 percent clean energy, telecom companies can too.”
The scorecard ranked each company based on key metrics relating to efficiency, clean energy and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. As can be seen in the above scorecard, however, only T-Mobile is really making firm strides as the only major telecom to make a clean energy commitment. It will be interesting to see how the scorecard will look in a year’s time, especially following AT&T’s decision to increase its own clean energy sourcing.
“The availability of wind and solar energy in the U.S. is growing while the cost is shrinking,” added Beth Porter, climate campaigns director at Green America. “T-Mobile said it will save $100 million from the shift to renewables. On top of reducing carbon emissions, moving to renewable energy is a sound business decision.”
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