Microsoft has made great progress in its commitment to clean energy and climate leadership in recent years, introducing an internal carbon fee and purchasing large amounts of wind energy to power two of its data centers.
But like other leading tech companies which have increased their commitment to renewable energy – including Facebook, Google and Yahoo – Microsoft’s progress has been undermined by its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a shadowy, increasingly controversial organization that has led an attack by the fossil fuel industry against successful clean energy and climate policies in nearly all 50 states.
Today, we learned that Microsoft is correcting that inconsistency, as news spread, confirmed by Microsoft to Greenpeace, that the company has dumped its ALEC membership.
ALEC’s energy agenda is dominated by deep-pocketed coal and oil interests like Exxon Mobil and Peabody Energy. Those companies write “model legislation” for ALEC to try to pass in states that would repeal renewable energy laws, add fees to home and business owners with solar panels, attack EPA standards for carbon pollution, and mandate climate denial instruction in schools, among other initiatives.
Microsoft remains a member of other groups, like the US Chamber of Commerce, CEI, and State Policy Network, that continue to attack clean energy and climate policies, so it still has work to do to ensure that its political activities aren’t undermining its carbon and renewable energy goals, but ALEC has led the charge against the clean energy revolution in recent years, so Microsoft’s dumping its membership is a big move in the right direction.
Google, Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, Yelp and other technology companies that are currently still ALEC members would do well to learn from Microsoft’s leadership. Many of these companies, especially Google and Facebook, have made significant progress powering their operations with renewable energy, and have steadily become stronger advocates for clean energy policies. But they have rationalized their ALEC membership with the excuse that it is an important vehicle for their other, non-energy related political priorities.
Microsoft’s departure from ALEC proves that argument specious: technology companies can advocate for their political agenda without loaning their credibility to organizations that undermine their environmental commitments at every turn.
Greenpeace has seen a positive change in Microsoft’s commitment to renewable energy in the past year, with the company signing significant contracts for renewable energy to power its data centers in Texas and Illinois, moving away from its reliance on the purchase of unbundled renewable energy credits. Its decision to dump ALEC is hopefully another signal that under its new CEO, Microsoft recognizes that renewable energy is smart for the economy, the environment, and Microsoft’s bottom line.
It’s time for Google, Facebook and the other ALEC members to follow Microsoft’s decision, dump ALEC, and stop undermining their own progress that is jumpstarting our clean energy revolution.