How Microsoft Plans To Eliminate All The Carbon It Ever Emitted

In January 2020, Microsoft launched a company-wide focus on sustainability by announcing an ambitious goal and a detailed plan to become carbon negative by 2030, and by 2050 to remove from the environment more carbon than they have emitted since they were founded.

To oversee this plan, they have assembled a team of experts including Microsoft Chief Environmental Officer, Lucas Joppa, and hired veterans of the energy sector like Darryl Willis, who is a geophysicist by training and spent 28 years with BP and a stint with Google before becoming Microsoft’s Vice President of Energy. 

Last week I spoke with Mr. Willis, who detailed the efforts Microsoft is making to achieve these lofty goals.

I started out by asking about the source of Microsoft’s emissions. It’s obvious how a car or a coal-fired power plant generates emissions, so I wanted a better understanding of the nature of Microsoft’s emissions.

“When it comes to overall energy consumption”, Mr. Willis explained, “China is first, second is the U.S., and the third is datacenters.” He added that energy demand is expected to continue growing, and thus there is a growing need to address the associated carbon emissions.

Mr. Willis said that data centers are the primary source of Microsoft’s emissions, but they have pledged to power their datacenter operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025. To address historical emissions, they launched a $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund that invests in global carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies. 

Source: Microsoft

He went on to explain that Microsoft identified the energy sector as one that generates and uses a lot of data, but not to its fullest extent. The company realized it was great at analyzing and leveraging data and brought in Mr. Willis for his industry expertise to better understand where the challenges and opportunities are to help customers make sense of their data and navigate the energy transition.  

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