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Microsoft seals record corporate purchase of green energy for AI

Eight times larger than the previous record, Microsoft has just purchased the most renewable energy in history for a single corporate entity in one deal. This will ensure its carbon negative plans aren’t derailed by upscaling AI projects.

There are a few constants in life: death, taxes, and Microsoft chucking its weight around by making record financial acquisitions. The latest, at least, is a positive for the planet on this occasion.

The tech conglomerate has just announced a landmark deal to finance the creation of a massive 10.5 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity globally. The name of the game, to safeguard its green ambitions while scaling up energy intensive AI projects.

Putting the scale of this commitment into perspective, 10.5 GW is equivalent to roughly half of the combined solar and wind capacity that California produced in the entirety of 2022. Nuts, right?

It also trumps the previous corporate purchase of renewable energy capacity by nearly eight times the amount – as reported by BloombergNEF – with figures around $11.5 billion and $17 billion being mentioned.

This eye-watering outlay, along with the $13 billion Microsoft has sunk into OpenAI already, suggests that the company is planning a massive expansion for its generative tech arm and whatever else is in the wheelhouse.

From 2026 to 2030, its asset partner Brookfield will launch renewable energy projects across various parts of the globe including the US, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific. Microsoft, meanwhile, will constantly purge these locations for green energy.

If it is indeed serious about reaching carbon negative status by 2030, however, Microsoft will need to offset any remaining emissions it cannot eliminate through renewable sources.

While carbon capture methods remain costly, technologically challenging, and – let’s face it – somewhat unproven, solar energy has emerged as the most economical source available for offsets. Expect heavy investment on this front too.

As AI data centres are set to increase their electricity consumption significantly by 2026, the International Energy Agency notes that AI could require ten times more power than it did in 2023. Basically, our current grids just will not do.

‘Microsoft wants to use our influence and purchasing power to create lasting positive impact for all electricity consumers,’ Adrian Anderson, Microsoft general manager of renewables, carbon free energy, and carbon dioxide removal, promises in a recent press release. I guess time will tell.

The deal certainly fits the typical Microsoft criteria for being ridiculous in scale and arriving ahead of the pack, but the conglomerate will have to get the logistics right if it wishes to avoid an environmental PR disaster.