Microsoft - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Industrial, Sourcing Renewables  -  May 23, 2016

Moving beyond RECs, Microsoft seeks more renewables for data centers

Though its data centers are already 100% "carbon neutral," Microsoft Corp. recently announced plans to increase their direct use of renewable energy in the years ahead. 

Microsoft, similar to other technology companies, uses a mix of energy efficiency, on-site renewable energy and renewable energy certificates to power its massive, and growing, number of data centers that power cloud-based services.  While purchasing renewable energy certificates technically offsets the carbon emissions used by the data enters, Microsoft said in a May 17 blog post that it plans to increase the percentage of wind, solar and hydropower generation directly used to power them.

By the end of 2018, Microsoft wants more than 50% of the electricity used by its data centers to come from renewable energy, up from the current 44%. Once that milestone is hit, Microsoft says it will aim to top 60% early in the next decade and continue to improve from there.

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith wrote in the post: 

Especially given the magnitude of datacenter expansion that will continue throughout this time period, this is not a small goal. It requires that we understand where we’ve come from over the past few years and take a principled approach to our work in the future. We need to translate these principles into clear and concrete goals that we can use to hold ourselves accountable in a responsible way. And it will require work with many other important stakeholders and institutions, from environmental groups to utilities to governments themselves.

Smith also called on the tech sector as a whole to recognize that data centers will rank among the largest users of electrical power on the planet by the middle of the 2020s, and work to build and operate greener ones. 

Microsoft has been a leader among corporate renewable energy adopters; it ranked second, behind Intel Corp., in the U.S. EPA's most recent rankings of the largest green power users within the organization's green power partnership program.  

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