Microsoft Implements Cap & Trade to Cut CO2

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Bill Gates has started to notice that the climate is a potential problem.”We need energy miracles” he said at TED. “The microprocessor and internet are miracles. This is a case where we have to drive and get the miracle in a short timeline.”

It’s always encouraging when someone with the power and reach to make real change gets it. Maybe his epiphany is why – with no filibuster obstructing progress –Microsoft has just announced that it will adopt an internal carbon price within each of the business units of the company beginning next year to help drive money in the direction of the miracles.

More than $10 million in clean energy investment could be the result, according to Robert Bernard, the company’s chief environmental strategist, quoted at Point Carbon.[PDF]

Microsoft will charge its business units that overshoot a carbon emissions level, and use the proceeds to buy renewable energy or emissions offsets (such as the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) that utilities must buy if they are unable to meet mandated targets)

Emissions generated from its business units spanning 100 countries, through data centers, software development labs, offices and employee air travel must be balanced by investment in renewable energy or by buying credits for renewable energy produced by others.

Microsoft will use CO2 management software from the Australian company CarbonSystems to measure and manage its carbon emissions.

It will source credits from U.S.-based low-carbon energy marketer Sterling Planet, which deals in renewable energy certificates (RECs) and voluntary credits.

In its suggestions for how businesses can cut their carbon footprint, Sterling Planet emphasizes energy efficiency and buying certified renewable power from utilities. Other possible direct carbon cutting investments would include new renewable energy projects including wind farms and methane-capture facilities, and methane-capture-powered fuel cells to power data centers.

“By charging an internal fee for carbon emissions to the business groups responsible for incurring the emissions, we will build an investment fund that can be used for a variety of renewable energy and offset projects,” says Microsoft.

Microsoft is aiming to cut its CO2 emissions by 30 percent below 2007 levels before the end of this year. That means just six months to meet that deadline. By the end of next fiscal year, June 2013, Microsoft plans to be carbon neutral.

Stay tuned.

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