Microsoft Raises Data Centre Renewable Energy Targets

Microsoft commits to reducing reliance on carbon offset certificates and aims to boost direct renewable energy use for the future

Microsoft has committed to boosting the amount of pure renewable energy it uses for its global data centres, setting a goal of increasing the wind, solar, and hyrdropower energy it purchases directly through energy grids to 50 percent by 2018.

Whilst Microsoft claims its data centre operations have been carbon-neutral since 2012, a sizable lump of Microsoft’s carbon credentials have been purchased through renewable energy certificates, which effectively offset carbon emissions.


cloudBut Microsoft said it now wants to ramp up the direct, effectively proper, use of renewable power it uses to power its cloud operations worldwide.

“As we move forward, we will continue to purchase renewable energy certificates to ensure we reduce our carbon emissions to zero,” caveated Microsoft’s chief legal officer Brad Smith.

“But more important, we are setting goals to grow the percent of wind, solar, and hydropower energy we purchase directly and through the grid to 50 percent by 2018, 60 percent early in the next decade, and to an ongoing and higher percentage in future years beyond that.”

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Currently, only 44 percent of Microsoft’s total data centre power is generated by wind, solar and hydropower sources. This is achieved through a combination of the company’s own renewable projects, such as the Keechi wind farm, and the purchase of renewable energy via the grid.

But this leaves 56 percent coming from certificate purchase.

“We recognise that both the volume and percent of energy from these renewable sources needs to be higher,” said Smith.

Microsoft will also aim to publish annual reports on its progress for the sake of transparency.

“We’re committed to the type of transparency that will hold ourselves accountable and share our track record with the public,” he said.

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“We’ll report annually our total energy consumption and consumption across regions, the mix of sources for the power that we use, the impact of our internal carbon fee model and the investments we make. We also will be transparent about where we are investing in renewable energy certificates or international equivalents, and our investments in carbon offset projects around the world.”

Last week, Microsoft opened its Canadian data centres in Toronto and Quebec, giving Canadian customers to Azure and Office 365 services. The company also announced it will open a new region in South Korea. Microsoft is also set to launch two new data centre regions in the UK later this year, just after the launch of a dedicated German Azure region next month.

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