Episode 10
Alex Robart
The Avant-Garde of Net Zero

Alex Robart is the Worldwide Strategy Leader for Energy & Sustainability at Microsoft. He guides Microsoft’s viewpoint on energy and sustainability, drives Business Unit strategy, and works with customers to develop transformation and sustainability strategies.

In this interview, Alex shares his insight on climate leadership, tying strategy to sustainability, carbon offsets and much more.

The time and location of zero carbon electron generation is important:

Microsoft has committed to powering data centres exclusively on zero carbon electrons by 2025. A critical aspect of this is looking at hourly electricity consumption and maximizing the use of zero carbon electrons hour-to-hour not just day-to-day. For example, green electrons generated far away from operations might not crowd out brown electrons being generated closer by; this is the kind of scrutiny we’re applying to our zero carbon electricity power purchase agreements.

Not all carbon offsets are created equal:

Microsoft goes through a science-based certification and diligence process for offset products and projects. They’re also making an effort to share that diligence methodology more broadly (see white paper link below). The issues to look out for include additionality (e.g., would this carbon be removed/avoided if the offset wasn’t purchased?) and durability (e.g., how long will the carbon be prevented from entering the atmosphere?)

When it comes to quality of offsets, ~180M tonnes of offsets were transacted in 2020-2021 and 2M tonnes were high enough quality for Microsoft.

Leadership includes investing in technologies not yet commercially viable:

A critical front of leadership in net zero includes investment in the right mix of technologies required to accelerate the low carbon transition. This includes technologies that are not yet commercially viable. Microsoft has committed to a $1B impact fund to achieve this aim.