Renewable electricity "is good for the economy, is good for our business, and it’s good for the rest of the world"

Michelle Patron, Director of Sustainability Policy, Microsoft
Ilario D'Amato
27 December 2017

Michelle Patron, Director of Sustainability Policy, Microsoft

Following the One Planet Summit in Paris, we are showcasing how sub-national governments and leading businesses are implementing the historic Paris Agreement that was agreed at COP21 in 2015. Our powerful network shows how climate action is good for companies and citizens, and how we’re helping accelerate the transition towards a world of under 2°C of global warming and greater prosperity for all.

LONDON: Businesses have “a responsibility and an opportunity” to use more renewable electricity, says Michelle Patron, Director of Sustainability Policy, Microsoft, in a Climate TV interview recorded in Bonn during COP23.

In 2012, Microsoft made a commitment to becoming carbon-neutral – since then reducing emissions by more than 9 million metric tons of CO2, investing in more than 14 million megawatt-hours of green power and impacting more than 7 million people around the globe.

Four years later, the global technology company has also committed to powering its data centers with energy that is at least 50% wind, hydro and solar by 2018, and 60% by early next decade.

For Microsoft, this means moving beyond data centers that are already carbon neutral to also having those data centers rely on a larger percentage of wind, solar and hydropower electricity over time.

This is a transition that RE100 – a collaborative initiative brought to you by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP as part of the We Mean Business coalition – drives as part of its work to grow corporate demand for renewable energy. Through the initiative, there are now over 100 of the world’s most influential businesses committed to using 100% renewable electricity.

“Microsoft is a proud member of RE100,” says Michelle Patron, “and it’s really helping us mobilize to get to our ultimate target, which is 100% renewable energy.

“We are a growing consumer of energy: our data centers around the world are using large amounts of energy to power modern computing, and we see that creates a responsibility and an opportunity for us to deploy more clean energy, which is what we’re doing.

“We’ve set an ambitious target to get more and more of our energy from renewable sources: 50% by the end of next year, 60% by the early 2020 and to keep going from there until we hit the 100% target.”


The company is already implementing its clean strategy around the world. “We had a lot of success over the last year alone,” says Michelle Patron. One of the most recent projects in the US is a datacenter powered entirely by wind energy in Cheyenne, in Wyoming – a coal-rich state – comprising 237 megawatts of wind energy while making the data center’s backup generators available to the local grid.

“We also did our first two European projects in the last month alone,” continues Michelle Patron. “In Ireland, we have a new wind project partnering with General Electric to power our datacenter, but we also have a new wind project in The Netherlands to power our operations as well.

“We’ve had a lot of success in bringing new projects online, there’s still a lot of work we need to do, but we’re excited about the future.”

To achieve its clean targets, Microsoft is using different options to adapt to the different markets, regulations and individual circumstances of its facilities. Going 100% renewable electricity “is our ultimate goal,” explains Michelle Patron, “and we are trying to create as many opportunities for us to purchase it as directly as possible.

“Originally, we were purchasing renewable energy certificates and increasingly we were shifting to get more and more of our energy directly from renewable sources. So, we are doing that by entering into contracts with our utility: if we can’t directly put it in our facilities at least we are getting new projects online in the power sector where we operate, in a local service area. And that’s how we are going to purchase more and more local renewable energy closer to our operations.”

During COP23 in Bonn last month, Microsoft announced it was on track to take a longer-term target of reducing its operational carbon emissions by 75% by the year 2030. “A lot of that depends on our ability to continue to develop and bring online new renewable energy; our RE100 commitment is an important part of us being able to meet that goal,” concludes Michelle Patron.

“RE100 brings us all together, makes us a market power and our political power, our advocacy a lot more stronger than any individual company alone. And by working together, we can make a really strong business case of how renewable energy is good for the economy, is good for our business, and it’s good for the rest of the world.”

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