We on the Microsoft Worldwide Utilities Team have been putting form around the concept of the Smart Energy Ecosystem, a system where all participants take some role in the management, use and even the production of electricity on a connected grid that’s integrated at every step with a utility’s information technology systems. We’ve noted how business models for utilities and consumers alike are changing in response to concerns for a cleaner environment, regardless of whether those concerns are external, in the form of regulations, or internal, in the form of measures that respond to the development of the collective conscience around environment and carbon.

Microsoft has long sought to be an example to others through its concerns about the amount of electricity that computing centers consume to keep servers and other equipment cool while running. In addition, our worldwide campus facilities continue to be constructed and retrofitted in a manner that creates ever greater energy efficiencies.

And yesterday we announced yet a new initiative, all on its own, relating to its effort to push this concern throughout our enterprise, with regards to our carbon footprint. It’s not just a matter using less energy, it’s a matter of using renewable, non-carbon producing energy.

Our Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Turner, introduced this corporate effort on the Official Microsoft Blog in his piece titled “Making Carbon Neutrality Everyone’s Responsibility at Microsoft.” The heart of the effort is an accountability model that makes every Microsoft business unity responsible for the carbon they create:

To put this into action, we’re creating a new, internal carbon fee within Microsoft, which will place a price on carbon. The price will be based on market pricing for renewable energy and carbon offsets, and will be applied to our operations in over 100 countries. The goal is to make our business divisions responsible for the cost of offsetting their own carbon emissions.

The carbon price and charge-back model is designed to provide an economic incentive for business groups across Microsoft to reduce carbon emissions through efficiency measures and increased use of renewable energy. Business operations impacted by the new carbon price include data centers, software development labs, office buildings, and business travel. For emissions not eliminated through efficiency measures, Microsoft will purchase renewable energy and carbon offsets.

There’s obviously a lot more on Kevin’s blog, so I’d encourage you to take a look. It could very well be a model that others look at as they consider their own corporate initiatives for carbon neutrality. – Jon C. Arnold