Amazon Distribution Center
People walk outside Amazon's newly opened distribution center in southwestern Poland in October 2014. The Seattle-based retailer has committed to using 100 percent renewable energy to power up its cloud computing division. Reuters

Your online shopping sprees and video streaming binges might just get a little greener. Inc. has said it will use renewable energy sources to power 100 percent of its cloud computing division, a commitment already made by technology giants Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

Seattle-based Amazon made the clean energy pledge after Greenpeace, a global environmental group, criticized the retailer for being among the world’s dirtiest tech companies. The group estimated that Amazon Web Services gets only 15 percent of its energy from renewables such as wind and solar power, while the rest comes mostly from carbon-intensive sources such as coal-fired power plants. In an April report, Greenpeace gave the company an “F” on environmental policy, advocacy and transparency and a “D” on energy efficiency.

Greenpeace Amazon Report
In its April 2014 "Clicking Green" report, the environmental group Greenpeace ranked Amazon Web Services among the "dirtiest" technology companies. Greenpeace

On its website, Amazon Web Services recently wrote that it “has a long-term commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure footprint.” It pointed out that three of the cloud division's 11 regions are “carbon-neutral” -- including hubs in Oregon; Frankfurt, Germany; and on its GovCloud for the federal government.

The renewables pledge marks an important shift for Amazon, Greenpeace said Wednesday. “The race to build a green Internet may be gaining a crucial new competitor,” Gary Cook, the senior IT campaigner at Greenpeace, said in a statement.

But Cook said Amazon’s promise lacks key details. Apple, Google and Facebook Inc. have all developed road maps for achieving their goals of procuring 100 percent renewables. In September, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company’s new “spaceship” headquarters in Silicon Valley will be the “greenest building on the planet.” Amazon’s commitment doesn’t offer up a time frame or a definitive strategy.

“Amazon’s customers will need more information to be sure that AWS means business about renewable energy,” Greenpeace’s Cook said, adding that “the company should elaborate on how it defines ‘renewable’ for its customers.”