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Microsoft targets diesel backup power to reduce emissions

As it pushes towards becoming carbon neutral, Microsoft has started to look at how it can replace backup power generators in its datacentres

Building on its commitment to become carbon neutral, Microsoft has introduced software to help its Azure customers calculate its cloud carbon footprint.

As Computer Weekly reported in January, the company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, unveiled a far-reaching plan to reverse the company’s entire historical carbon footprint from 1975. This year, Microsoft aims to remove 1 million metric tons of carbon from the environment. It now hopes to help to improve the transparency of carbon emission reporting in the Azure public cloud.

In a blog post, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer, Lucas Joppa, said a new tool, called the Microsoft Sustainability Calculator aims to tackle the problem organisations face when trying to achieve meaningful carbon reduction goals without the ability to measure carbon emissions.

“Using AI and advanced analytics, the Microsoft Sustainability Calculator provides actionable insights on how to reduce emissions and the ability to forecast emissions, and simplifies carbon reporting.

“It uses consistent and accurate carbon accounting to quantify the impact of Microsoft cloud services on your environmental footprint. It calculates how moving additional applications and services to the cloud will help further reduce your emissions. It easily identifies and compiles reports for voluntary or statutory reporting requirements.”

The GHG Protocol Corporate Standard classifies a company’s carbon emissions into three “scopes”. Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy, while Scope 3 emissions are all indirect emissions that occur in the company’s supply chain. Scope 3 includes both upstream and downstream emissions

In the blog post, Joppa described how Microsoft would tackle direct Scope 1 and indirect Scope 2 emissions. “To reduce our Scope 1 and 2 emissions to near zero, we need to change how we operate. We’re on the path to obtaining renewable energy power purchase agreements for 100% of the day-to-day power of our datacentres by the middle of this decade. Today, we’re additionally announcing that we’re aiming to eliminate our dependency on diesel fuel by 2030.”

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Among the direct emissions Microsoft plans to target is its fleet of diesel-powered generators that are used to provide backup datacentre power. “While diesel fuel accounts for less than 1% of our overall emissions, we believe it’s important to help accelerate the global transition away from fossil fuels,” said Joppa. “We’re charting a new course using low-carbon fuel sources, including hydrogen and energy storage.

“We recognise the challenges this might entail and that we need help in developing a robust supply chain for these fuels and advancements in battery technology, but we’re ready to work with partners across the world while leveraging investments from our Climate Innovation Fund to make this a reality.”

To meet its Scope 3 emissions targets, Joppa said Microsoft has put in place an internal carbon tax across all its operations. It also updated the Microsoft Supplier Code of Conduct, which means suppliers of products and services to Microsoft will now need to report their Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions data.

“In the upcoming months, we’ll be working with our suppliers on a phased approach to develop a timeline, new ideas, tools and processes,” wrote Joppa. “This reporting is the first significant step towards helping our suppliers reduce their emissions in alignment with Microsoft’s goals of transparency in emissions reductions.”

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