Here at Advanced Energy Perspectives, we’ve long known that sustainability is a growing priority for major corporations. Fortune 500 companies understand that energy is a part of the cost of doing business, and now with an array new tools from advanced energy companies, it’s an operating expense that’s no longer out of their control. This week, we saw further assurance of that change in corporate structure, specifically with AEE member Microsoft.
Sustainability has gotten a “promotion” at Microsoft writes Joel Makower in GreenBiz, in terms of “where it sits, to whom it reports, what it does and how it is viewed across the organization.” This is evident in several changes in Microsoft’s corporate structure (the company’s chief sustainability strategist now reports several rungs higher on the corporate ladder than he used to), as well as a memo announcing that the company’s new chief legal officer and president would be tasked with accelerating initiatives important to the mission and reputation of Microsoft, including “privacy, security, accessibility, environmental sustainability, and digital inclusion.”
"It’s an acceleration, amplification and prioritization of sustainability within the company," said Rob Bernard, the company’s chief sustainability strategist. "It’s now a cross-company initiative that has a center of gravity in the president’s office."
Microsoft joined AEE in 2014, and recently Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president at Microsoft, joined AEE’s board of directors. “Investments in renewable energy are a foundation of Microsoft’s overall environmental sustainability strategy, and we are committed to taking actions that accelerate the growth and adoption of clean energy,” Lewin said upon joining the board. “I'm excited to join the board of AEE and look forward to drawing on the collective expertise to advance the adoption of clean energy and speed the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable future.”
Microsoft is putting its money where its mouth is: the company has purchased 175 MW of wind energy in Illinois (to power a data center in Chicago) and 110 MW of wind energy in Texas (to power a San Antonio data center), and just this week Utility Dive reported on a partnership between Dominion Virginia Power and Microsoft to build a 20-megawatt (MW) solar farm in Fauquier County, Virginia.
"By investing in these projects and partnering with states and utilities, Microsoft can provide long-term certainty needed to expand the amount of renewable energy available on the grid,” said Bernard. “We are pleased to play a role in this project, as it will bring new, additional clean energy onto the grid in Virginia.”
Microsoft isn’t alone. More and more, companies are choosing advanced energy. In September last year, John Kaeser, CEO of AEE member company Siemens, published an op-ed in the New York Times announcing that the company would incorporate a variety of advanced energy generation technologies and energy efficiency measures to completely eliminate or offset CO2 emissions by 2030. This would make Siemens both a supplier of advanced energy products and a customer making full use of them to meet the company’s energy needs. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.
“We are committing to cut our global carbon footprint in half by 2020 and to make our global operations carbon neutral by 2030,” Kaeser wrote in the Times. “We’re targeting facilities, vehicles and fuel. We will increase our use of distributed energy systems at our own sites — by combining solar panels, wind and highly efficient gas turbines with intelligent energy management, smart grids and energy storage solutions.”
Other companies are continuing to grow their support of advanced energy as well. AEE member Apple announced in May that its stateside facilities and also its entire manufacturing supply chain would be powered with renewable energy. In December, Google announced its biggest advanced energy investment yet, adding 842 MW of renewable energy capacity, including a wind farm in Sweden and solar power plant in Chile, to power data centers worldwide.
We’ve reached a tipping point where incorporating advanced energy is more than good corporate citizenship: it makes direct economic sense for businesses large and small. As Siemens’ Kaeser concluded in his New York Times piece, “In other words, cutting your carbon footprint is not only good corporate citizenship — it’s also good business.”
What exactly is advanced energy? We have an answer! AEE's new report, This Is Advanced Energy, catalogues 52 technologies that are making our energy system more secure, clean, and affordable.