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Microsoft pledges to run data centres carbon neutral by 2030

By Shannon Williams, Mon 19 Jul 2021

Microsoft has announced it will aim to power all its global data centres and offices with zero-carbon energy by 2030. 

In a recent blog post, Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer and Noelle Walsh, CVP, cloud operations + innovation, outline what will be the most critical infrastructure of a net zero carbon economy, how the company will commit to new goals intended to help engineer that infrastructure, highlight a major new product offering intended to assist Microsoft customers around the world to record, report and reduce their own emissions; and provide an update on progress toward the company's commitments to become carbon negative, water positive and zero waste by 2030 and protecting ecosystems by building a Planetary Computer.

"The climate is changing and calls to do something about it are intensifying. From the U.N. High-level Political Forum taking place this week in New York City to COP26 – the U.N.’s annual climate change conference in November – leaders are coming together to make decisions that will dictate the speed and scale of the global effort to stabilise our climate system," the blog post says.

"At Microsoft we are not only tracking these conversations closely but also engaging in them – and we are, in a way, mirroring them." 

The company says it has purchased enough renewables to match the consumption of its operations since 2014.

It says by 2030, Microsoft will have 100% of its electricity consumption, 100% of the time, matched by zero carbon energy purchases.

"At Microsoft we have a long-term vision that we refer to as 100/100/0 – that on all the world’s grids, 100% of electrons, 100% of the time, are generated from zero carbon sources," the company says.

"We call this a vision because we alone can’t control the outcome. Like other users, our data centres and our offices around the world simply plug into the local grid, consuming energy from a vast pool of electrons generated from near and far, from a wide variety of sources. 

"So while we can’t control how our energy is made, we can influence the way that we purchase our energy."

The company says it 100/100/0 commitment acknowledges the limits on its ability to control global grid infrastructure, but which maximises its influence on it. 

"Our influence is already significant in one dimension. Our existing commitment to execute power purchase agreements equivalent to 100% of our energy needs by 2025 has positioned Microsoft as one of the largest purchasers of renewable energy in the world. 

Over the last 12 months, Microsoft has signed new purchase agreements for approximately 5.8 gigawatts of renewable energy across 10 countries around the globe. This includes over 35 individual deals, including over 15 in Europe spanning Denmark, Sweden, Spain, U.K. and Ireland. This procurement brings our operating and contracted renewable energy projects to 7.8 gigawatts globally.

"But we know we can do more. How much zero carbon energy we procure is important in helping decarbonise the grid, but so too is where, when and from whom we make our purchases," the blog post says.

"Moving forward we will be innovating our energy purchasing contracting to help bring more zero carbon energy onto the grid and move more high carbon intensity energy off the grid, helping to rebalance the carbon intensity of any grid on which we operate.

"We will match our purchasing of zero carbon energy with our consumption on an hourly basis. And we will do so on the same grid systems into which we are already connected."

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