Microsoft and Google Invest in Blockchain Software to Make Clouds Greener

July 8, 2022
Microsoft and Google are investing in FlexiDAO, a carbon accounting platform that uses blockchain technology to provide more detailed energy tracking, making it easier for these cloud operators to meet their goal of running carbon-free around the clock.

Microsoft and Google are investing in FlexiDAO, a software platform that uses blockchain technology to provide more detailed energy tracking, making it easier for these large cloud operators to reach their goal of running carbon-free operations around the clock.

FlexiDAO today announced a $6.5 million investment round led by SET Ventures, with investment from Google and the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, and existing investor EIT InnoEnergy.
FlexiDAO says it will use the new funding to expand its services, which use blockchain technology to certify and trace electricity from production to consumption.

The technology promises to enable digital documentation of the carbon content of a company’s energy supply chain, creating a way to validate claims that a company is using 100 percent renewable electricity. By providing granular analysis of energy sourcing, FlexiDAO allows customers to track carbon content on an hourly basis.

This capability matters to Google and Microsoft, who are already using the FlexiDAO technology to support their targets of 100% 24/7 carbon-free electricity by 2030.

“This investment is a significant milestone for FlexiDAO, but also for the wider 24/7 carbon-free energy market,” Simone Accornero, CEO and co-founder of FlexiDAO. “If we don’t act now by pushing breakthrough technologies that decarbonize every electron, every hour of every day, we will never meet decarbonization targets.”

Carbon Accounting is a Growing Priority

FlexiDAO is one of several new companies providing carbon accounting to help data center operators accelerate their transition to a carbon-free future. It uses a blockchain, an online ledger that tracks and validates assets, as well as data connected to those assets. Blockchains are best known for their use in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, but can also be adapted to create platforms to track and manage assets in a supply chain – including energy and carbon.

As the world confronts the growing urgency of the climate crisis, top cloud computing companies are stepping up their sustainability efforts. Although data center builders are already the largest adopters of green energy, recent storms, heat waves and droughts have created a renewed sense of purpose on climate.

In a bid to accelerate the technology sector’s response to climate change, the Infrastructure Masons Climate Accord (ICA) was launched in April, bringing together 70 companies to slash the carbon output of the infrastructure powering the Internet.

“The goal is global carbon accounting of digital infrastructure, which would influence market-based decisions, and drive our industry to achieve carbon neutrality,” said Dean Nelson, the founder and CEO of Infrastructure Masons.

But you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Carbon accounting specialist like FlexiDAO and nZero are seeking to address that gap with software that provides 24×7 tracking of energy content, and the data center sector is an early adopter of both platforms.

Google was the first company to announce plans to be carbon-free around the clock back in 2019, and says its relationship with FlexiDAO will help its efforts.

“As Google and others move towards 24/7 carbon-free energy, we need new capabilities that enable us to track with credibility how the carbon-free electricity produced matches what is consumed,” said Maud Texier, Global Head of Clean Energy Development at Google. “We are very excited by the value that the partnership with FlexiDAO will unlock for Google and for the energy transition.”

Last year Microsoft committed to having 100% of its electricity consumption be matched by zero carbon sources 100% of the time by 2030.

“We know that to achieve this goal, we will need innovative solutions like FlexiDAO that will help reliably track and verify carbon-free energy consumption,” said Brandon Middaugh, Director of the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund. “Through Microsoft’s Netherlands datacenter pilot of FlexiDAO’s granular energy certification and this new investment, we are excited to work with FlexiDAO to advance our zero-carbon vision and to catalyze grid decarbonization.”

nZero Working With Data Center Providers

Another company providing carbon accounting services to data centers is nZero (formerly Ledger8760), a Reno-based company that is providing carbon tracking for Aligned Data Centers, Corscale Data Centers, T5 Data Centers and Ascent. nZero is headed by CEO Adam Kramer, who has lengthy experience in digital infrastructure from his tenure as an executive at Switch.

“Companies and other entities are facing mounting pressure to understand and disclose their carbon footprint,” said Kramer. “We believe that we’re on the cusp of a major shift in climate change responsibility, and nZero will be here to help capture actionable and auditable data and create a new standard of accuracy in emissions reporting.”

nZero says its climate management platform gathers accurate, first-party, contextual data rather than relying on third-party services or averages, allowing users to pinpoint energy opportunities within their operations, and easily implement carbon reduction actions.

The nZero platform enables data centers to sync all of their utility data, inclusive of water and gas usage, to provide a unified view of their emissions and then connects it to the center’s financial data.

“Many data centers claim to be 100% green but until they are measuring 24/7 carbon intensity, it’s hard to back that up,” said Kramer. “We see too many companies get caught up in receiving inaccurate emissions data or not capturing it often enough. We’re excited to help these data centers create a new standard for their industry and enable customers to more easily access the data they need to reach carbon-free energy goals.”

“Aligned has been committed to solving data center infrastructure, energy consumption and water usage challenges since its inception,” said Andrew Schaap, CEO of Aligned Data Centers, who said partnering with nZero “powers our platform with real-time, accurate and actionable data our customers can leverage to make more informed business decisions and reduce their overall environmental impact.”

Corscale is a new entrant in the data center industry, with the ability to optimize for sustainability from the outset.

“The ability to now enable new operating models for hyperscale customers and balance their workloads across diverse clean energy sources is a key advantage,” said Nic Bustamante, Senior Vice President at Corscale. “We want to ensure that as stewards of critical natural resources, we enable our client’s own goals through real-time energy transparency.”

About the Author

Rich Miller

I write about the places where the Internet lives, telling the story of data centers and the people who build them. I founded Data Center Knowledge, the data center industry's leading news site. Now I'm exploring the future of cloud computing at Data Center Frontier.

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