Microsoft announces largest wind energy purchase to date

Nov. 14, 2016 — On Monday, Microsoft Corp. announced its largest purchase of wind energy to date with the signing of two agreements. Combined, these agreements represent 237 megawatts of wind energy, which brings Microsoft’s total investment in wind energy projects in the U.S. to more than 500 megawatts.

“Microsoft is committed to building a responsible cloud, and these agreements represent progress toward our goal of improving the energy mix at our datacenters,” said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft. “Our commitment extends beyond greening our own operations because these projects help create a greener, more reliable grid in the communities in which we operate.”

Microsoft has contracted with Allianz Risk Transfer (ART) to fix its long-term energy costs and purchase the environmental attributes connected with the new, 178-megawatt Bloom Wind project in Kansas. The project is the first to use a novel structure developed by ART and designed to offset high upfront costs associated with the creation of large-scale wind projects. Microsoft is the first buyer to participate in this structure, which has the potential to bring clean energy projects online at a faster pace.

“It is important for investors in renewable energy projects to secure long-term, stable revenues, and our structure does just that,” said Karsten Berlage, managing director of ART. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Microsoft on this groundbreaking project.”

In addition, Microsoft has contracted with Black Hills Corp. subsidiary Black Hills Energy, under a long-term agreement, to purchase 59 megawatts of renewable energy certificates from the Happy Jack and Silver Sage wind projects, which are adjacent to Microsoft’s Cheyenne, Wyoming, datacenter. The combined output of the Bloom and Happy Jack/Silver Sage projects will produce enough energy on an annual basis to cover the annual energy used at the datacenter.

“Our longstanding partnership with Microsoft productively led to this landmark collaboration. This collaboration provided them the opportunity to utilize significantly more renewable energy while still ensuring the reliability they’ve come to expect through our energy infrastructure and generation resources,” said David R. Emery, chairman and CEO of Black Hills Corp. “We are proud to be a strong supporter and partner in their mission to power their datacenters with increased renewable energy resources, and look forward to our continued collaboration in the years ahead.”

Microsoft and Black Hills Energy also worked together to create a new tariff, available to all eligible customers, that allows the utility to tap the local datacenter’s backup generators, thereby eliminating the need for Black Hills Energy to construct a new power plant. The tariff received approval from the Wyoming Public Service Commission in July.

“We are constantly looking for new ways to approach energy challenges and avenues of engagement with our utility partners,” said Christian Belady, general manager of cloud infrastructure strategy and architecture at Microsoft. “The team worked closely with ART to come up with a completely new model to enable faster adoption of renewables. Likewise, the tight engagement with Black Hills created the opportunity for Microsoft’s datacenter to become an asset for the local grid, maintaining reliability and reducing costs for ratepayers. This kind of deep collaboration with utilities has great potential to accelerate the pace of clean energy, benefitting all customers — not just Microsoft.”

These are Microsoft’s third and fourth wind energy agreements, joining the 175-megawatt Pilot Hill wind project in Illinois and 110-megawatt Keechi wind project in Texas. In March, Microsoft also signed an agreement with the Commonwealth of Virginia and Dominion Energy Inc. to bring 20 megawatts of solar energy onto the grid in Virginia. These projects are in addition to the renewable and carbon-free energy Microsoft purchases from the grid mix in the markets in which it operates.

More information about this announcement is in the Microsoft on the Issues blog post by Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith.

About Allianz Risk Transfer

Allianz Risk Transfer (ART) is the center of competence for alternative risk transfer business within the Allianz Group offering tailor-made insurance, reinsurance and other non-traditional risk management solutions to industrial and financial clients worldwide. Founded in June 1997, the company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE. ART operates through affiliated companies with offices in Amsterdam, Bermuda, Dubai, Liechtenstein, London, New York and Zurich. Its client base spans across all industry sectors and its solutions are most effective for clients facing unusual or complex risks, where traditional (re)insurance or financial products are inadequate. As of today, ART AG is rated AA- by Standard & Poor’s and A+ by A.M. Best. www.art.allianz.com

About Black Hills Corp.

Black Hills Corp. (NYSE: BKH) is a customer-focused, growth-oriented utility company with a tradition of improving life with energy and a vision to be the energy partner of choice. Based in Rapid City, South Dakota, the company serves 1.2 million natural gas and electric utility customers in eight states: Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. The company also generates wholesale electricity and produces natural gas, oil and coal. More information is available at www.blackhillscorp.com.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. 

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

New York Pension Fund Joins Multi-billion-dollar International Investors to Reduce Carbon Footprint

In the latest demonstration of institutional asset owners’ commitment to climate action, New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF), the third largest public pension fund in the US with $184.5 billion in assets, has joined the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition (PDC).

The CRF is the first major US pension fund to join the Coalition’s 28 members, who between them control over $3 trillion in assets and have pledged to gradually decarbonize a total of $600 billion by designing investment portfolios with a smaller climate change impact.

One year ago, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, trustee of the CRF, announced plans at the Paris climate talks to position the Fund for a low carbon future. In partnership with Goldman Sachs, the CRF developed a low emission index, which steers assets away from large carbon emitters and increases investments in carbon-efficient companies.

“Climate change is one of the greatest risks to our pension fund’s portfolio,” DiNapoli said. “We’re reviewing and adjusting our investments to reduce that risk and take advantage of the growing opportunities of a lower carbon future. Investors are playing a key role in fostering a cleaner global economy. The PDC gives us the opportunity not only to highlight our own activities in this regard, but also to share insights and challenges with counterparts around the world.”

“Investments with more carbon translate to higher risk, not just from potential carbon fees or pricing, but also from shifts in technology that can leave high carbon assets stranded,” said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment. UN Environment’s Finance Initiative is a co-founder of the PDC.

“The success of the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition is a clear signal to both governments and companies that climate change, and the corporate response to it, is critical to shareholder value and investor interests going forward,” said Solheim.

CRF’s action comes at a time of intense efforts by the financial community to prevent market shocks from the widespread mispricing of climate change risks.

Last month, the G20’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures co-chaired by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney recommended full and standardized disclosure by companies and investors of financial risks and opportunities from climate change.

Other investor members of the PDC include major European funds such as France’s ERAFP ($26.9 billion) and FRR ($38.5 billion), the Dutch giant ABP ($481.1 billion) and the world’s largest insurance company, Germany’s Allianz Group.

“We are seeing significant international collaboration among leading asset owners to push on climate issues,” said Lance Pierce, President of CDP North America, the international not-for-profit organization holding the world’s largest collection of self-disclosed corporate environmental data and one of the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition organizers.

Pierce added, “Climate change is requiring transformational changes in the economy in order to safeguard assets and supply chains, and presents a significant economic growth opportunity. The US renewable energy sector employed 769,000 people and the solar industry grew 12 times faster than overall job creation in 2015. Investors are realizing they can reduce carbon, reduce risk and generate steady financial returns as well as jobs.”

About New York State Common Retirement Fund’s sustainability investing

DiNapoli has positioned the Fund in the vanguard of institutional investors who seek out and promote sustainable investing that takes environmental, social and corporate governance considerations into account as part of their long-term strategy. The Fund is committed to the belief that well-managed businesses, which focus on the long-term health of the company and work to avoid environmental damage or harm to the communities in which they operate, are more likely to produce sound returns. A growing body of academic research confirms this and investment firms that integrate sustainability in their decisions have performed well for the Fund.

About CDP

CDP, formerly Carbon Disclosure Project, is an international, not-for-profit organization providing the largest global system for companies and cities to disclose and manage vital information concerning climate change, water and forest risk commodities information. Backed by 830 institutional investors with assets of US$100 trillion, CDP puts these insights at the heart of strategic business, investment and policy decisions. More than 5,800 companies disclosed environmental information through CDP in 2016. Please follow us @CDP to find out more.

About the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition

The Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition was co-founded by CDP, the UN Environment Finance Initiative, The Fourth Swedish National Pension Fund (AP4) with assets of $34 billion, and Amundi, Europe’s largest asset manager with more than $1.07 trillion in assets. In the 15-month lead-up to the December 2015 Paris climate talks the Coalition received $600 billion in commitments from investors of capital positioned towards a low-carbon economy, six times more than its $100 billion goal. For more information, please visit: www.unepfi.org/pdc

About UNEP FI

The UNEP Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) is a unique partnership between UNEP and a global network of over 200 banks, insurers and investors from 51 countries.

Created in the wake of the 1992 Earth Summit UNEP FI’s mission is to mainstream the integration of sustainability across the finance sector. It provides a neutral space to convene stakeholders and acts as a platform at the intersection between finance, science and policy. Please visit www.unepfi.org, for more information.

Source: CDP