21st Century Micro-Utility | HuffPost

Microsoft recently decided it would no longer get power from its local utility at their Redmond, Washington campus, but would strike out on its own in pursuit of a different approach to power. In a blog post, the company said it would “go to the open market to buy 100 percent carbon-free energy to power most of our Puget Sound operations in Washington state. This isn’t just an aspirational goal. In this contract, we’ve committed to buying renewable energy at levels substantially higher than Washington state law, targets that are not only aggressive but meaningful. If we fail to meet these requirements we will face penalties.”[1]

This is a big deal. Microsoft’s campus uses 50MW of power, which is equivalent to the power demand of a city of 50,000. Microsoft isn’t alone, however, in making this move. Most large campuses – including universities, large data centers, and manufacturers – are examining similar steps to accomplish different financial and environmental goals than are enabled by the traditional relationship with their power utilities.

There are both normal business reasons, and “sign of the times” business reasons for this gradual and growing divorce between large users of power and their traditional utility. The normal reason is that utilities sell one product – electric power – to all their customers. The product comes from a mix of inputs – oil, coal, hydro, gas, and renewables. Some customers need higher quality power than the utility sells. Others need to be protected against the outages that utility power experiences. And an increasing number want “green” energy and they are sometimes dissatisfied with the ways utilities claim they have it. Companies – like Anbaric – provide different platforms for providing these services; they are, in essence, micro-utilities for microgrids. [2] This is also a part of a growing awareness that local, “distributed” energy is in many places a viable alternative to and…

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