As the largest software company in the world, Microsoft has unparalleled reach into homes, businesses, and governments. Microsoft has only recently begun to show an interest in leveraging this reach to empower significant energy savings beyond the operational footprint of the PC. While Microsoft has traditionally had a lower greenhouse footprint than others in the sector due to its focus on software development, the rapid shift Microsoft is making to “cloud” based software solutions, in competition with Google, will fundamentally change its emissions profile and is likely a significant reason behind its refusal to adopt an absolute emissions reduction target.
Microsoft has become one of the largest contributors to political campaigns over the last 10 years, and has averaged nearly US$9 million in lobbying expenses each year since 2003. Despite its significant political influence and access, Microsoft has not demonstrated regular leadership in calling for policymakers to adopt the policies necessary to reduce emissions and drive deployment of renewable energy solutions or energy efficiency technologies. Microsoft did take a small step forward in advance of the UN Climate negotiations in Copenhagen last year, supporting a call to President Obama to reach a deal in Copenhagen that would have resulted in a legally binding agreement.
Microsoft has case studies on the net lifecycle emissions reductions of its digital music and digital software distribution. Recently, more information has been provided on how Microsoft’s Holm energy management software will empower electric vehicle owners to better manage their electric vehicle charging.
Microsoft has set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions per unit of revenue at least 30 percent below 2008 levels by 2012. However, there is no commitment to absolute emissions cuts. Microsoft receives four points for providing 24 percent of its electricity via renewable energy.
Microsoft’s policy statement on climate needs strengthening, but it was notable that Microsoft was active at the Copenhagen Climate conference and in writing to President Obama in support of a global deal. Despite former CEO Bill Gates recently coming forward to speak forcefully in favor of a transformation to our energy system, Steve Ballmer has, thus far, failed to effectively articulate the importance of climate protection and clean energy transformation, or the need for strong government policy to drive this transformation.