Microsoft Commits to Carbon Neutrality in FY 2013

by | May 8, 2012

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Microsoft will charge an internal carbon offset fee starting in fiscal year 2012-2013 in its effort to be carbon neutral beginning July 1, according to the company’s blog.

The carbon price will be based on market pricing for renewable energy and carbon offsets, and Microsoft will apply it to operations in more than 100 countries. The pricing is part of the software company’s strategy to achieve net-zero emissions in its data centers, software development labs, offices and employee air travel, outlined in a white paper published this month.

According to the white paper, Microsoft’s approach has three “pillars”: be lean, be green and be accountable.

“Be lean” means using technology to increase energy efficiency and decrease air travel. Microsoft’s goal by the end of 2012 is to construct new data centers that average a power usage effectiveness of 1.125, down from 1.4 for all of its cloud infrastructure properties in 2011. This compares with an estimated industry average of 2.0, and a theoretical best achievable PUE of 1.0. It also aims for new and existing data centers to use 30 to 50 percent less energy than traditional industry data centers.

To help achieve this goal, the company will retrofit existing data centers with LED lighting, economizers, compressor energy reduction, and HVAC containment and airflow reduction systems, and use virtual face-to-face meetings instead of air travel, among other measures.

In October 2011, Microsoft completed a smarter buildings pilot program on its Redmond, Wash. campus, using software to make its buildings more energy efficient. The company projects this will save about $1.5 million dollars on energy costs in fiscal year 2013, with an ROI in 18 months.

“Be green” means Microsoft will increase its purchase of renewable energy and reduce waste and water use. The company ranks third on the EPA’s list of organizations using the most green power.

The carbon fee is a key component of Microsoft’s “be accountable” pillar. Additionally, Microsoft is working with CarbonSystems to implement an Enterprise Sustainability Platform, which automatically captures and extracts environmental data in an effort to further reduce its carbon footprint.

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