AT&T and Verizon collectively use millions of megawatts of power. Thanks to consumer pressure and this campaign, in 2018 AT&T agreed to source 20% of its energy from wind power. A major step forward, but still a long way from 100%. Verizon is still using less than 2% renewable energy to power its massive servers and networks.
AT&T is a company with $163 billion in sales serving 150 million wireless subscribers in the US and Mexico. In 2015 the company used 14.8 million MWh, with only 1.26% from renewable energy, namely fuel cells (natural gas) with a small amount from solar. Its reliance on fossil fuels to power its network is at odds with its climate change policy, which affirms the existence global warming and that greenhouse gases contribute to it. AT&T also states that technology has the ability to curb emissions for its company and customers.
Thanks to pressure from tens of thousands of consumers taking part in this campaign, and the fact that T-Mobile set an industry-leading commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2021, AT&T agreed to purchase 820 MW of power from four wind farms in Oklahoma and Texas. This takes AT&T's use of renewable energy from less than 2% to nearly 30%!
Verizon has annual revenues of $126 billion per year with about 146 million subscribers, and uses over 10 million MW of power per year. Since 2011 Verizon has increased total emissions from 5.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) to about 6 million. It has no targets for reducing total emissions and has a troubling lack of transparency on energy usage, but we do know that Verizon gets less than 2% of its energy from renewable sources. The company has not made any public statements setting significant renewable energy targets.
According to the EPA’s Green House Gas Equivalency Calculator, the two companies’ combined electricity usage is enough to power 2.6 million homes. The combined emissions from operations is equal to nearly 4 million cars on the road for one year.
AT&T and Verizon both rely heavily on "energy intensity" as the sole metric for addressing the impacts of their energy use. Their focus on energy has been in improving the efficiency of their buildings and networks, which lowers the amount of energy required per unit, or capita, through improving equipment or processes. The problem with solely using this metric to improve sustainability is that it disguises the actual total energy being used by these companies. Their total electricity usage is growing and is the primary source of their carbon emissions. As of 2017, telecom companies were using very little renewable energy.
To address climate change, we need to be moving away from fossil fuels, and companies like AT&T and Verizon that state they are environmentally conscious should be leading the effort towards a fossil free future. While forward-thinking tech companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google have committed to running on 100% renewables and are investing in facilities powered by renewable energy, AT&T and Verizon continue source the majority of their energy from dirty energy sources.
Both AT&T and Verizon need to adopt a goal of 100% clean energy by 2025, along with overall carbon emission reduction goals and a timeline to get there.
Both companies need to rapidly increase their use of solar and wind, and decrease dirty energy, including coal and natural gas..
Both companies need to set clear climate emissions reductions goals that lead to a rapid decrease in emissions in the next decade.