Securing greener power for Europe’s digital future

The EU’s Energy Union seeks to ensure that Europe has “secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy.” We want to play our part in helping to achieve this goal.

The world is increasingly racing to a future based on cloud computing, a new technology revolution that promises to transform how we live, work, communicate, and learn at a pace and scale that may be without precedent in human history. More energy is needed to power this future and meet the rapidly growing demand for cloud services. While industry has made significant progress in improving energy efficiency of datacenters, these advances are only part of the solution. So, as we invest in European datacenter infrastructure to support the digitization of the EU’s economy, we also need to transform the way we power these facilities, by using more renewable energy.

To this end, today we announce a new wind energy deal in Ireland. This is Microsoft’s first large-scale renewable energy project outside the United States and it makes us one of the first multinational technology companies to support a new wind energy project in Ireland. Our investment will help increase the amount of carbon-free energy on the Irish power grid. This benefits our business by providing reliable and affordable clean power. It also has positive impact for the local community, the country, and the EU more widely. Corporate investments in renewable energy projects like ours can play an important role in helping the European Union meet its ambitious 2030 targets to reduce carbon emissions.

Our Irish wind energy investment builds upon a longstanding commitment to action on climate and energy issues, including operating 100% carbon neutral since 2012, setting an internal price on carbon, taking concrete steps to green our data center operations, and steadfastly defending the Paris Agreement. Our first renewable energy project in Ireland is an important evolution of this commitment. We’re taking a local approach to advancing a clean energy future for Europe, by sourcing new renewable electricity directly from the countries where we operate.

While we’re proud of today’s milestone, there’s still much more that can be done to reduce emissions within the public and private sector. Policy mechanisms can play an important role in lowering the cost and improving availability of renewable energy. That is why we are paying close attention to the EU’s Clean Energy package. The new framework provides an opportunity to formalize ambitious targets for renewable energy, facilitate better infrastructure interconnection, reform pricing mechanisms, and encourage greater access for corporates to invest and buy renewable energy.

In the coming months, policymakers will continue to debate these proposals. As they do, we encourage them to consider the rapidly-changing nature of Europe’s energy market. Firms like ourselves have the capital and resources to invest in much-needed renewable projects that can help increase the pace of Europe’s clean energy adoption. Equally importantly, we have the will to do so.

But we need energy policies that welcome new market participants, along with a plethora of new clean energy technologies, and importantly, also encourage the corporate sourcing of renewable electricity.

With a supportive policy framework in place that provides more clarity and certainty for investments and reduces market barriers and fragmentation, we believe there will be expanded opportunities for corporate firms to help accelerate Europe’s energy transition. Measures such as expanding access and rights to the renewable energy credit system known as Guarantee of Origin (GOs), allowing companies like ours to report clearly and transparently about the renewable energy we source, and increasing the availability of market-based pricing have the potential to unlock other companies’ willingness to get involved in similar projects.

Realizing the promise of Europe’s Energy Union ultimately means establishing the market framework necessary to drive new demand response, efficiency, storage, and fast-start technologies to complement renewable energy. Information technology and cloud-based innovations are the key to unlocking the transformation of energy markets. It is cloud-powered smart grid applications that make energy technologies operate in concert, reliably delivering clean energy around the clock.

2017 could well turn out to be the year that the EU delivers a robust clean energy package, bringing it closer to realizing the Energy Union and reinforcing Europe’s position as a global leader on climate and energy. We recognize that the issues are complex, yet it’s clear they demand collective action. Meeting the Paris climate targets and addressing climate change will require action by all stakeholders, from both the public and private sector, traditional and new players alike. For our part, we are committed to using our resources, investments, and innovation to develop solutions that are good for our planet, our customers, our company, and the economy. After all, climate change needs to be everyone’s business.

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John Frank
Vice President for EU Government Affairs

John Frank is Vice President EU Government Affairs and is leading the Microsoft Brussels office. Prior to this role Frank was Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, leading the Digital Trust and Security group which includes the Law Enforcement and National Security team, the Digital Crimes Unit, the Industry Affairs group, and Competition Law, Privacy and Government Contract Compliance teams. Frank joined Microsoft in Paris in August 1994. His responsibilities focused on competition law matters with the European Commission and national governments, software licensing and copyright law and regulatory policy for the Internet. Prior to joining Microsoft, Frank practiced law in San Francisco with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Mr. Frank received his A.B. degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and his J.D. from Columbia Law School.