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Microsoft to Become Carbon Neutral by Internally Taxing Carbon Emitted by Own Offices

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Microsoft is going green starting July – the latest news tell that’s for sure. However they’re not taking the Facebook or Apple approach to that, but a rather more bureaucratic, systematized and nevertheless still effective way – they’re putting an internal tax on carbon emissions to each of their U.S. offices.

Well, that may sound strange, but every office is like a semi-independent entity, and suddenly, every office manager’s dream will be to watch where they’re getting their energy from, for the fear of not getting taxed for carbon emissions, by the ton.

The money hence collected will be used to buy Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) and carbon offsets, and will make the software behemoth to declare itself carbon neutral. Neat or what?

For those who didn’t know (including myself), RECs are defined in Wikipedia like this:

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), also known as Green tags, Renewable Energy Credits, Renewable Electricity Certificates, or Tradable Renewable Certificates (TRCs), are tradable, non-tangible energy commodities in the United States that represent proof that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource (renewable electricity). Solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) are RECs that are specifically generated by solar energy.

So, basically Microsoft is buying these certificates that are released by clean energy producers, the money go to these guys and whatever the source of the actual electricity used (even coal), more renewable energy is produced and this sector is encouraged to exist. On the other hand, by encouraging the wind or solar power operators to produce energy, the grid can shut down coal plants. The company projects this will save about $1.5 million on energy costs in fiscal year 2013, with an ROI in 18 months.

Microsoft is working with various NGOs and Sterling Planet to buy RECs. My opinion is that this approach can be adopted by many others, as it can boost green energy sales. However, the price of carbon is now low, so I’m in doubt whether these certificates will actually offset the carbon actually emitted.

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