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CORPORATESTRATEGY


Cleanenergycloudhangs overtheelectric grid


VIEWFROMTHEC-SUITE


MICROSOFT’S HEAD OF RENEWABLES DISCUSSES THE COMPANY’S VISION TO DECARBONISE THE GRID WITH SETH O’FARRELL


it was not clear to himwhy the company would be thinking about energy as a strategic issue for the company. “In fact, I told the per- son that hiredmethis sounded like a ‘dead end’ job,” he laughs. “It turned out to be quite essential to our growth and success.” Now, the computer company, synonymous


W


with the rise of information technology in the 1980s, is one of the biggest corporate buyers of renewable energy in the US, with Mr Janous, its general manager of energy and renewables, at the helm. This July, Microsoft unveiled its new


‘100/100/0’ initiative, which targets 100%renew- able energy for its electricity consumption 100% of the time, in line with a similar announce- ment fromGoogle last year (see page 38).


Raising stakes to hourly matching Since its first climate commitment to carbon neutrality back in 2012, Microsoft has consist- ently raised the stakes, targeting 100% renewa- ble energy on an annual basis in 2020. In 2019, it partnered with energy company Vattenfall to pilot the world’s first hourly renewables matching scheme in Sweden. “Our vision has always been about the


decarbonisation of the electric grid. Electricity is a hugely important part of our business,” Mr Janous tells fDi. The latest announcement means that


Microsoft plans to reduce the carbon intensity of any grid it operates on by purchasing zero-car- bon energy on an hourly basis. Rather than pur- chasing green certificates on an annual basis, which can help conceal acompany’s consump- tion of carbon-based energy on the electric grid, Microsoft aims tomatch its energy consumption withclean energy at every hour of the day. By monitoring this hourly, rather than annually, Microsoft gives itself littleroomto hide from scrutiny over its true carbon footprint. Over the course of 2020, Microsoft signed


new purchase agreements for roughly 5.8GWof renewable energy across nine countries, includ- ing Denmark, Sweden, Spain, theUKand Ireland, bringing its contracted and operational


August/September 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


hen Brian Janous landed his first job at Microsoft as a data centre utility architect a decade ago, he recalls that


renewable energy projects to 7.1GWglobally. With $50bn of its revenue is driven by


cloud-based technologies, housed in data cen- tres, the company’s rawmaterial has become electricity, prompting Mr Janous to compare the buildout of cloud infrastructure over the past decade to the construction of electric grids some100 years ago. Much like there is a rawmaterial that goes


into a power plant that is then distributed as a more useful form of energy, he says, Microsoft takes that refined energy and ‘refines’ it again, distributing it as data.


The next decade “The problem that we had to solve in the past decade was just scaling [wind and solar energy],” Mr Janous explains. “Now, as we start to get higher levels of penetration of these intermittent resources, we’re going to have to be a lot more intelligent aboutwhere we’re putting them.” Microsoft has committed to a $1bn cli-


mate innovation fund, through which it invests into climate technology start-ups. It also sits on the Hydrogen Council, a global chief executive-led initiative set on develop- ing the hydrogen economy. “As we go through this decade, there’ll be


more clarity as towhat problem [hydrogen] is best suited to solve, because, like a Swiss armyknife, it can do everything, but not anything particularly well,” he quips, refer- ring to its projected use for as an energy solution for diverse challenges, from storage to long-distance shipping. Mr Janous looks back at his timeat the


company and considers Microsoft to have been on a “steadymarch of awareness” to setting bold zero-carbon targets, spanning the pur- chase of electricity to decarbonising its supply chains. “2030 is still nine years away,


but when you think of the enor- mity of the task [of 100/100/0], it’s actually quite close,” he says. “If we don’t have a really clear plan in the next few years, it’s going to be really hard to achieve that goal.”■


11


CURRICULUMVITAE BRIAN JANOUS


2018 Microsoft General manager of energy and renewables


Previously Microsoft, general manager of energy, director of energy strategy, data centre utility architect


GLOBALOUTLOOK


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