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For the past several years, I’ve used Earth Day as an opportunity to look at Microsoft’s progress on environmental sustainability issues over the past 12 months and where we are headed in the year to come.
The most significant progress to report is around Microsoft’s work to achieve carbon neutrality in our current fiscal year. We announced this commitment last year. I’m excited we made the commitment and are on track to meet it, but I am even more excited about how we’re meeting it. We are one of the very first companies to put an internal price on carbon emissions, which provides our business and operational groups more awareness and incentives to conserve energy and seek renewable power. The fee enables us to invest in renewable energy credits and certified offset projects to meet our carbon neutrality goal. I attended the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen a few years ago where the nations of the world tried and failed to achieve a global system for addressing greenhouse gas emissions. With that in mind, I’m struck that Microsoft is one of very few organizations in the world today imposing a carbon fee across operations in 100+ countries in a way that makes economic and environmental sense.
For the second consecutive year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named Microsoft to its Green Power Partnership Top 50 List—and this year our ranking increased to second on the Top 50 List.
This week Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of top U.S. companies, published its 2013 reporton how many of the U.S.’s top companies are addressing sustainability challenges. The report includes a letter from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who outlines how Microsoft is using technology to reduce its carbon footprint and how technology can achieve gains in energy efficiency.
Business Roundtable is a who’s who of American business. The companies represented by the organization comprise more than $7.3 trillion in annual revenue and combined represent nearly one-third of the total value of the U.S. stock market. The key theme in this year’s report—which is entitled “Create, Grow, Sustain: How Companies Are Doing Well by Doing Good”—is that companies are making a difference in their communities, developing products that improve lives and are pursuing socially responsible business practices.
Solar energy is taking off in Japan. In fact, last year nearly 3 GW of photovoltaics were installed across the country. The country’s tight power supply and demand situation—the vast majority of nuclear generation was taken offline following the Fukushima disaster—has made managing energy generation a very important issue. That’s one reason why the town of Nichinan in Hino-gun, Tottori Prefecture, has turned to the Windows Azure cloud service as part of the energy management system for its new solar power station.
Since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Japan has doubled down on efforts to expand the country’s renewable energy production. Before the earthquake and tsunami critically damaged the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, Japan received as much as 30 percent of its energy from nuclear power and planned to expand nuclear generation to 50 percent of the country’s energy needs.
One of the biggest contributors to greenhouses gases in the U.S. is what you’d least expect—commercial buildings. In fact, the office you’re reading this blog post in right now may have as much of an environmental impact as your commute to work today. Commercial buildings are responsible for nearly 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases—nearly as much as the emissions from all forms of transportation. They are also one of the single greatest operating expenses for companies. Energy plays a significant part in those expenses, particularly when inefficiencies across commercial buildings waste an estimated 15 to 30 percent of the energy they use.
In October 2011, we published a whitepaper that detailed a pilot at Microsoft to make energy-smart buildings. The pilot began with a fairly small number of buildings on our Redmond campus. We took the building management system in some of our buildings and added an additional layer of IT intelligence on top of them. We found that we could reduce energy usage by 6 to 10 percent—all without needing to make a single retrofit to buildings. Today in a story on