Microsoft commits to running data centers off 50% renewable energy by 2018

Microsoft will up its renewable energy use in data centers to 60% by early in the next decade

Microsoft quincy datacenter renewable energy

Microsoft Data Center in Quincy, Wash.

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft announced it plans to power its data centers around the world using 50% renewable energy by 2018.

The company also plans to boost its use of renewable power for its data centers to 60% by the early 2020s.

Rob Bernard, Microsoft's chief environmental & cities strategist, made the announcement at the VERGE16 conference last week.

Bernard's comments during a conference keynote were a reiteration of a commitment earlier this year by the company to increase its use of clean energy.

Microsoft's latest announcement came on the same day that Apple committed to 100% renewable energy use by joining RE100, a global initiative by influential businesses. To date, RE100 has amassed membership from 77 corporations, including Microsoft.

Microsoft has powered its global operations, which include manufacturing, licensing and logistics, on 100% renewable energy since 2014.

In Microsoft's Green Blog, Bernard noted that as the company begins using the power of the cloud to reduce fuel consumption by public transportation, adopt clean energy like solar power, improve food resiliency in a changing climate, and understand and predict changes in the ocean, "we must also ensure that we are building a responsible cloud."

"Tremendous amounts of energy will be required to power this data-driven revolution. The leading cloud companies have a responsibility to address this energy usage," Bernard wrote. "That is why Microsoft announced a new, principled approach to helping advance a clean energy future."

Microsoft has committed to greater transparency, including reporting its energy consumption across regions and the mix of sources for the power it uses, while continuing to report its total energy consumption and the impact of its carbon reduction program.

"We also committed to improving our energy mix, setting a goal to grow the percent of wind, solar and hydropower energy we purchase directly and through the grid," Bernard stated. "Already, we are at 44% and signed a new deal to bring 20 megawatts of new solar energy onto the grid in Virginia earlier this year."

Microsoft has been involved in renewable energy use for years. In 2013, for example, it built a data center next to a Wyoming landfill in order to use its methane gas to power the facility.

The company also supports public policies designed to accelerate the availability and affordability of renewable energy on the grid. Twelve states are challenging the plan, but Microsoft, along with Amazon, Apple and Google, signed an amicus brief in support of the White House's Clean Power Plan, which is expected to enter oral arguments later this month.

The plan is a commitment by the U.S. and 19 other countries and 28 leading technology innovators to double funding and other resources for clean energy research and development.

Along with public funding, high-profile investors -- known as the Breakthrough Energy Coalition -- also plan to provide money for the development of zero-emission energy technology. The group, being lead by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, includes Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

This story, "Microsoft commits to running data centers off 50% renewable energy by 2018" was originally published by Computerworld.

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