Microsoft’s ambitious new environmental goals include shifting data centers to 70% renewable energy by 2023 – GeekWire

Microsoft President Brad Smith speaks at Bloomberg’s Sustainable Business Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

Microsoft is amping up efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and be a global leader in the fight against climate change. On Monday the software giant unveiled sweeping new sustainability goals, including accelerating its timeline to move all data centers to renewable energy.

Microsoft plans to shift its data centers to 100 percent renewable energy in the next decade and 75 percent by 2023. The company reached 50 percent in early 2018. Microsoft will join the Climate Leadership Council and advocate for carbon pricing nationwide as part of the new sustainability push.

Microsoft is also launching a new initiative to encourage recycling of data center assets using AI and other technologies. Those data centers will be powered by 60 percent renewable energy by the end of 2019, according to the company.

Microsoft will nearly double its “internal carbon tax” to $15 per metric ton as part of the effort. The company implemented the fee across all of its business units in 2012. It is based on projected carbon emissions from each part of the company — everything from carbon use in buildings to transportation.

“We wanted to encourage our own business units to make improvements to their own electrical efficiency and their own carbon efficiency,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith during the Bloomberg’s Sustainable Business Summit last year.

The tax produces about $30 million annually for a fund Microsoft uses to invest in energy improvements.

Sustainability was already an area of focus at Microsoft; the company has been working toward cutting operational carbon emissions 75 percent by 2030. In 2017, Microsoft struck a deal with Puget Sound Energy allowing the company to shift 80 percent of its energy use at its headquarters to renewable sources purchased wholesale from other providers.

But Microsoft President Brad Smith said “environmental changes have made it increasingly clear that we must do more” in a blog post Monday.

Microsoft partnered with PwC on a new study tied to Monday’s announcement that makes the economic case for applying artificial intelligence to environmental conservation.

“Time is too short, resources too thin and the impact too large to wait for all the answers to act,” Smith wrote. “There’s an incredible opportunity to be realized by acting, supported by data and technology, on climate change.”

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