By Michelle Patron, Director of Sustainability Policy, Microsoft, and Irene Plenefisch, director of government affairs
Microsoft is proud to call Washington state home. We’ve been headquartered here since 1979, and we have grown from a small cluster of buildings to a 500-acre campus that now houses more than 40,000 employees and 15 million square feet of offices and labs. As we’ve grown, so too has our energy consumption. In recognition of the impact our operations have on the environment and our local community, we’ve worked hard over the last 10 years to make our operations more sustainable, from dramatically increasing energy efficiency at our Redmond campus to operating worldwide at 100 percent carbon neutrality.
While we are proud of this progress, we know more work needs to be done, particularly as the energy demand of our datacenters and operations grows. That is why earlier this year, we announced five energy commitments aimed at advancing sustainability in our operations, including growing the amount of clean energy we use and supporting public policies that make it easier and less expensive to produce and purchase clean and renewable energy.
In keeping with those commitments, we are proud to announce our support of the application to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission to create a new tariff – Schedule 451. Schedule 451 is a proposal from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) that would allow eligible companies and organizations like Microsoft to purchase energy directly from a third party rather than through PSE. Under Schedule 451, PSE will still provide transmission, distribution and other services.
We are supporting this proposal because we believe it is good for the environment, our business and the local community. The open access provided by Schedule 451 would allow us to secure clean and renewable power directly through our own agreements with third-party suppliers, providing more flexibility and creating cost efficiencies. We actively procure clean energy for our datacenters across the U.S. and around the world, and we’re excited that Schedule 451 would enable us to actively support more carbon-free power here in our home state as well.
We believe this proposal is also good for the region. PSE has plans to retire two coal-fired power plants in 2022. By taking responsibility for our substantial energy requirement and removing our energy needs from PSE, Microsoft’s action will reduce demand on the system and help mitigate potential future energy shortfalls. We will continue our work with PSE and stakeholders to address the concerns of local ratepayers and protect the environment.
We applaud PSE’s innovation in creating this proposed tariff. Schedule 451 is an example of the type of innovative utility policy needed to dramatically expand the scale and pace of clean energy investment, particularly in the electricity sector. If approved, we believe Schedule 451 will deliver both environmental and economic benefits to Microsoft, to PSE customers and the entire Puget Sound region, and we look forward to the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission’s action on this important measure.