New Report Shows Momentum Toward an Advanced Energy Future

Mar 7, 2017   |   Michelle Patron, Director of Sustainability Policy

We know clean energy is good for the environment and that it’s a smart investment for the future of our business. Market data now shows just how important advanced energy is for the growth and sustainability of our economy overall.

A new report from Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) released today shows that the U.S. advanced energy industry—including everything from solar and wind generation technology to energy storage to electric vehicles—grew to nearly $200 billion in the United States in 2016. According to the Advanced Energy Now 2017 Market Report, the sector now supports more than 2.5 million domestic jobs, while advancing a cleaner, cheaper and more reliable U.S. energy system for the 21st century. The advanced energy market also grew internationally at a rate of 5 percent, significantly higher than the 3.1 percent growth of the global economy, to a total of $1.4 trillion worldwide.

Microsoft’s datacenter in Quincy, WA

The private sector has played an important role in this economic success story, as American businesses increasingly choose to develop and purchase clean power in order to reduce the cost and environmental impact of their operations. In fact, 71 percent of Fortune 100 companies and 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies have set renewable energy or sustainability targets, according to a 2016 AEE report. And the amount of renewable energy contracted by corporate buyers tripled from 2014 to 2015, driving three gigawatts of renewable energy deals in 2015.

At Microsoft, we believe using more renewable energy to power our operations is good for our business, good for the economy and good for the local communities in which we operate. Investing in clean energy helps support the creation of new jobs, gives us clean power at a cost-effective price, and helps make our business more resilient and sustainable. That’s why in 2016 we set new energy targets for our datacenters aimed at accelerating our progress towards powering our cloud with 100 percent clean energy. To date, we’ve directly invested in the creation of new U.S. wind and solar projects that add 542 MW to the U.S. grid—enough energy to power more than 100,000 average U.S. homes—in addition to the substantial amount of renewable power we purchase as part of the local grid mix.

As we buy more power from wind, solar and hydro sources, we are also looking for ways to make renewable energy cheaper and more accessible to other businesses and to residential households. Through our energy deals and policy advocacy, Microsoft is working on arrangements that will allow more companies to buy clean energy, which in turn will help American businesses and the clean energy sector grow and expand nationally.

Today, I joined Lisa Frantzis, Senior Vice President at AEE, and other panelists to talk about the positive economic impact of clean energy development and share success stories from states across the country. One recent example is Microsoft’s project in Cheyenne, WY, which was featured in today’s report.

In Cheyenne, WY, Microsoft’s datacenter is by far the biggest customer on the grid. We needed more energy and wanted to use wind power to satisfy our growing demand, but didn’t want the local utility (or ratepayers) to shoulder the cost of this additional investment. So, we crafted an approach that eliminated the need for a new peaking plant to support our wind projects by using our own on site generators as a backup to the grid. By allowing local utilities to tap power from our datacenters’ backup generators during periods of peak demand for the city, we were able to meet our need for clean power while boosting the reliability of the grid and keeping energy prices low for all ratepayers.

The private sector can make good progress on accelerating the advanced energy economy through sourcing commitments, clean energy and tech procurement, and policy engagement. To catalyze even greater economic growth, companies should work together with other companies, utilities, policymakers and local communities to create solutions that work for businesses large and small, as well as households and other organizations. That’s why Microsoft works with partners like AEE and the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Alliance to support market-based energy policies.

By working together, we can ensure an energy future that is clean, efficient and inclusive—one from which everyone, including the planet, benefits.

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