As the world goes digital, data centers that power the cloud are looking to renewable energy sources

BloombergNEF’s Harrison also said it’s important that companies like Microsoft actively seek policies that favor clean energy.

“Lobbying utility companies and working with regulators to make it more accessible to buy clean energy is a tremendous role that Microsoft and other companies are playing right now,” he says.

Microsoft’s commitment to clean energy starts at home. By 2025, Microsoft will transition to a 100% renewable energy supply, meaning the company will enter into green energy PPAs for 100% of the carbon-emitting electricity consumed by all of its data centers, buildings, and campuses.

Through By 2030, Microsoft will cover 100% of its electricity needs, 100% of the time, with zero-carbon energy purchases. By 2050, Microsoft is committed to removing all of the carbon the company has emitted from the environment since its inception in 1975, either directly or through electricity use. Data centers can play a role in achieving these goals.

In addition, the ability to ensure that the cloud meets Europe’s needs and serves Europe’s values ​​is a key part of a new set of European cloud principlesMicrosoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith made the announcement in May this year after discussions with a number of European partners.

Supporting the renewable energy market

With innovative approaches, Microsoft has demonstrated how data centers can save electricity, reduce emissions and even feed energy back into the grid.

In Finnland, Waste heat from two new data centers will contribute to the district heating system, which provides heat to more than 250,000 people in winter. The microsoftData center region in Swedenuses rainwater and outside air to cool servers and uses the resulting heat to keep workspaces warm for employees. Also in Sweden, Microsoft is testing batteries to replace diesel generators as backup systems.

Microsoft’s data centers in Ireland use batteries to maintain an uninterrupted power supply. in one Collaboration between Microsoft and Enel Xthese batteries can provide grid services through instantaneous interaction with the power grid. On days when wind and/or solar power generation fluctuates, Microsoft’s backup batteries can be used to maintain a constant flow of energy for electricity customers.

This means fossil-fuel burning power plants are needed less often to maintain constant output, reducing emissions and fuel costs.

“The great thing about the project in Ireland was that those batteries were already there,” says Microsoft’s Janous. “What it took was providing that digital intelligence layer to determine what the grid needs to balance the frequency in the system?

“These assets, which are ubiquitous in data centers, are located all over the world. And it creates a great opportunity to see the data center not only as an energy consumer, but also as a producer and partner with grid operators to improve reliability and ultimately the energy transition we’ve been talking about.”

looking ahead

It is the “technology companies’ work in digitization, artificial intelligence, and information systems that could be potential game-changers in creating smarter, more flexible energy systems needed to achieve net-zero emissions,” write Kamiya and Varro in the IEA Analysis .

BloombergNEF’s Harrison also pointed to the potential for developing digital tools to help network operators shift loads during periods of high demand. He says the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) could contribute to energy efficiency in many ways.

AI can be used for everything from troubleshooting supply chain issues to creating more accurate local weather forecasts to helping vendors find routes absorb more energy.

While AI and machine learning will drive demand for cloud computing, Janous notes that these advanced tools will also likely be essential to solving some of the biggest problems we face.

“Historically, energy transitions have been very slow because they require huge amounts of infrastructure,” he says. “We need strong partnerships with grid operators and energy companies in Europe to help them figure out what are the most efficient and fastest ways to accelerate this transition to renewable energy sources.”

“We need the digital tools that data centers provide to accelerate this transition.”

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