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Microsoft Sustainability Report: Normalized Emissions Cut 30% since 2007

Microsoft this year met its target of reducing it carbon intensity by 30 percent over 2007 levels, according to the company’s latest corporate sustainability report.

The fiscal year 2012 report, which covers the company’s operations from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, says that Microsoft met the goal with a mix of energy efficiency measures, investments in renewable energy and carbon reduction projects that were externally verified.

The report does not provide figures for the reduction, but in the company’s 2011 report Microsoft said it had fallen behind schedule on the target. In that report the company blamed the slow progress on an increased in cloud computing, which in turn led to more energy use.

The report does not include any figures for absolute carbon emissions from 2012 either. The latest year for which emission figures are included is 2011, when Microsoft emitted 1,530,352 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

Microsoft has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by the 2013 fiscal year. To achieve the goal, Microsoft is putting an internal price on carbon that it says will make each of its business divisions responsible for the cost of offsetting of their carbon emissions. Offsetting will be made through either energy efficiency or payment into a central fund that will be used to source renewable energy or buy carbon offsets, the report says.

In an implicit indictment of the slow legislative progress on carbon legislation, the 2012 report says that “as long as the atmosphere is treated as an unlimited free resource, it will be virtually impossible to slow the rate of climate change.”

Microsoft says that its modular data centers use 50 percent less energy than traditional data centers and consume only 1 percent of the water of traditional data centers. Other data center innovations championed by the company include reducing energy use through free-air cooling and operating data centers at higher temperatures. The company cools its data center in San Antonio, Texas, using recycled water from the city’s wastewater system.

Microsoft purchased 1.1 billion kWh of green power in FY 2012, the report says. This is the third most of any US company according to EPA figures.

In 2010, the company used 1.954 billion megaliters a year, and this rose to 2.109 billion megaliters in 2011, the report shows. There is no information on the company’s 2012 water use.

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