Using New and Existing Technologies to Advance Environmental Sustainability

Posted by Steve Lippman
Director of Environmental Engagement

This Earth Day, I am in Washington, D.C. with colleagues from Microsoft’s Environmental Sustainability team responding to increasing requests from policymakers, customers, researchers and others seeking insights about how information technology can help address pressing energy and environmental challenges. One of the highlights of my trip is the opportunity to facilitate a roundtable discussion on energy between members of Congress, administration officials, companies and energy experts.

Whenever I describe what Microsoft can do in this area, a key emphasis is the unique perspective Microsoft can offer on how to scale innovation. Thinking about how to provide technology on a global scale to maximize impact is core to what we do at Microsoft. To address energy security, reliability and environmental needs, the world needs to develop breakthrough technologies to transform energy generation, storage, distribution and consumption. But developing these technologies may be less challenging than ensuring they are rapidly adopted at a global scale that is sufficient to have a real impact.

There’s plenty of technology already available that can make a significant dent in our energy emissions — if it’s used effectively. In a widely cited report called Smart2020, the consulting firm McKinsey identified ways to apply information technology to reduce energy use in factories, buildings, transportation and homes.  The study found that smart application of existing technologies could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2020.

One way Microsoft is applying readily available technology to reduce energy consumption is through a free, Web-based energy management tool for consumers called Microsoft Hohm. Hohm provides customized energy savings tips based either on automated data feeds from utilities we partner with, or on individuals’ answers to a checklist of common questions. This data lets us empower individuals with information about their energy use, compare their energy use to the average in their zip code and see how much money others saved by taking steps to reduce their energy use.

Computer scientist Alan Kay observed:  “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Inventing a more eco-friendly future  certainly requires innovations like smart grids, smart appliances and more energy efficient computing. Through our own R&D and in partnership with other companies, governments, and academic researchers, Microsoft is working hard to help provide those innovations. But we’re also reaching out to policymakers, NGOs, academics and others to collaborate on building the culture, public policies and institutional incentives needed to deploy those technologies at scale.

For more on what we’re doing this Earth Day and every day on these issues, please visit  or

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