Leading the Sustainable Data Revolution

We are at the cusp of a transformation – as a society, as an industry and as a company. That was the message I delivered to a diverse group of environmental and energy leaders at VERGE16 at my keynote session yesterday.

The world is experiencing the very real effects of climate change, including extreme weather, droughts, air quality problems and the warming of our oceans. But against this backdrop of significant and global scale challenges, we are also seeing incredible innovation and change happening, driven by technology and enabled by the cloud.

Microsoft’s datacenter in Quincy, WA

Over the past 250 years a few select inventions – the steam engine, electrification, the microprocessor – have spurred three industrial revolutions and catalyzed human progress. We’re now entering a new era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in which major advances in every field will be driven by data – the electricity of our age – and the datacenters that will make this massive use of data possible.

These technological innovations have the ability to transform the way we address societal issues related to sustainability at scale. Already, we are seeing cloud-based technologies make a meaningful impact around the world. The cloud is helping companies and communities tackle water scarcity, reduce fuel consumption by public transportation, adopt clean energy like solar power, improve food resiliency in a changing climate, and understand and predict changes in the ocean.

As we begin to tap the power of the cloud to address these challenges, we must also ensure that we are building a responsible cloud. Tremendous amounts of energy will be required to power this data-driven revolution. The leading cloud companies have a responsibility to address this energy usage. And Microsoft believes that, as large energy consumers, we have the opportunity to drive change that will benefit not only our company but the world.

That is why Microsoft announced a new, principled approach to helping advance a clean energy future. We committed to greater transparency, including reporting our energy consumption across regions and the mix of sources for the power we use, while continuing to report our total energy consumption and impact of our carbon program.

We also committed to improving our energy mix, setting a goal to grow the percent of wind, solar and hydropower energy we purchase directly and through the grid to 50 percent by 2018, 60 percent early in the next decade and to an ongoing and higher percentage in years beyond that. Already, we are at 44 percent and signed a new deal to bring 20 megawatts of new solar energy onto the grid in Virginia earlier this year. And we continue to support public policies designed to accelerate the availability and affordability of renewable energy on the grid. For example, in April we signed a joint amicus brief in support of the White House’s Clean Power Plan, which is expected to enter oral arguments later this month.

Finally, we are seeing great progress in our research projects aimed at transforming energy efficiency. In August, we, along with our partners, announced new research showing that how next generation battery technology that stores energy can act as resources to improve reliability, energy efficiency and usability of renewable energy on the grid.

These commitments will help us build a responsible cloud that benefits the world. Microsoft has exceptional capabilities to address not only our energy footprint, but also to create and deliver innovative solutions that will help address environmental challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.  We are up for the challenge, and look forward to sharing our progress and success stories in the days, months and years ahead.

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