Microsoft: From Carbon Neutral to Negative by 2030

In 2012, Microsoft Corp. became one of the world’s first major companies to become carbon neutral. While many others may have stopped there, Microsoft announced a series of bolder commitments

  • 2025: Shift to 100 percent renewable energy supply for its datacenters, buildings, and campuses.
  • 2030: Eliminate the use of diesel-fueled back-up generators at its datacenters.
  • 2030: Become carbon negative and reduce carbon emissions by half
  • 2050: Remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.

Lucas Joppa

“We believe that those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so, and that’s why we set bold goals,”

said Dr. Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Officer.

On track to achieve its 2025 renewable energy goal, Microsoft announced that a new energy-efficient datacenter region in Arizona will offer Microsoft cloud services in 2021 and will be powered by First Solar’s Sun Streams 2 photovoltaic (PV) solar plant.

The facility will power the new Arizona datacenter region with the lowest carbon solar electricity available today using First Solar’s proprietary Series 6 module technology. Designed and developed at the company’s R&D centers in California and Ohio, Series 6 has a carbon footprint that is up to six times lower than conventional crystalline silicon PV panels.

A Real Carbon Fee

So, how does a technology giant with multiple business units drive internal change? As part of its decarbonization strategy, Microsoft has implemented an internal carbon fee, set at $15 per metric ton of carbon, to incentivize business units to shift to renewables. Through the use of renewable energy and offsets, the fee has reduced more than 20.1 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (mtCO2e)

“Unlike some other companies, our internal carbon tax isn’t a “shadow fee” that is calculated but not charged,” Dr. Joppa explained. “Our fee is paid by each division in our business based on its carbon emissions, and the funds are used to pay for sustainability improvements.”

He adds that the proceeds are used to:

  • Purchase renewable energy and reduce Scope 3 emissions.
  • Invest in carbon offset and removal activities and new technology solutions.
  • Fund innovative projects to tackle pressing environmental issues, such as AI for Earth.


Extending the Impact

Always looking to achieve more, Microsoft is expanding its efforts to help its suppliers reduce their emissions.

“Suppliers will now calculate and report their Scope 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas emissions data. In the upcoming months, we’ll be working with our suppliers on a phased approach to developing a timeline, new ideas, tools, and processes,” Dr. Joppa said, adding that the company is also examining how it will account for those emissions.

Doubling down on its efforts to fight climate change, Microsoft has established a $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund to accelerate the adoption of emerging technologies and the creation of new technologies to address climate concerns.

Partnering with Customers

Microsoft is also working closely with its customers to help reduce their carbon footprints. As Dr. Joppa put it, “Our most important contribution to carbon reduction will come not from our own work alone but by helping our customers around the world reduce their carbon footprints through our learnings and with the power of data science, artificial intelligence, and digital technology.”

Tools like the Microsoft Sustainability Calculator provides the company’s customers, including First Solar, with transparent insights into their total carbon emissions – Scopes 1, 2 and 3 – resulting from their cloud usage, the only cloud services provider that can provide full transparency to customers across all three scopes of emissions. Using AI and advanced analytics, the calculator provides actionable insights on how to reduce emissions, the ability to forecast emissions, and simplifies carbon reporting.

“For many customers, like First Solar, sustainability is already a core part of their business, while others are just beginning their work to mitigate their carbon impact,” Dr. Joppa said. “Regardless of where organizations are on their journey, we’re committed to helping them achieve their goals.”


A Shared Commitment

“Microsoft and First Solar share a commitment to building a sustainable future using the best available science and innovative technology,” Dr. Joppa said.

First Solar, which operates some of the most sustainable factories in the world, deploys a range of Microsoft technologies and the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, including Azure IoT Hub and SQL Data Warehouse, as part of its manufacturing operations. The same operations that produce the Series 6 module that will power Microsoft’s datacenters with the lowest carbon solar electricity available today. 


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