Microsoft has made its Emissions Scoreboard – formerly known as the Sustainability Calculator and designed to measure the carbon impact of cloud loads – publicly available.
If this sounds familiar to you, it could be due to the fact that Google did a great job this week Carbon footprint a preview that claims to “measure, report and reduce carbon emissions in the cloud”.
Corporations are under pressure to do something about sustainability and the ability to report carbon use is a starting point. Hence Microsoft post a reference to customers such as the Bühler Group, which “saw the need to monitor emissions from bands 1, 2 and 3” and can now use the dashboard to do so.
What are these ranges? Everything is explained in this White paperwhich says that Range 1 is direct emissions, such as fuel for backup power generators, Range 2 is emissions from consumed energy, mainly electricity, and Range 3 is indirect emissions, including such as production and delivery of servers and shelving.
“For many organizations (with the exception of some heavy-duty direct emission sectors, such as manufacturing and energy), their Emissions 3 are much higher than Emissions 1 and 2,” the report said.
These ranges are part of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, an international team that develops standards for quantifying emissions, created by the Global Resources Initiative and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Microsoft is listed as one of the companies providing funding for the greenhouse gas protocol, but Google is not.
What does Google’s carbon footprint measure? According to methodology, it covers “use of electricity from Google Cloud products” and “upstream emissions related to electricity and fuel production facilities for the majority of the electrical load”. It “(does not include direct emissions or indirect emissions related to the value chain (respectively Google Scope 1 and Scope 3 in the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) carbon standards)”, say doc. The likely conclusion is that the carbon footprint is not an accurate measure of the actual carbon footprint from using GCP, while Microsoft at least punches it.
However, there are several problems with Microsoft’s approach. One is that while Google’s carbon footprint is just part of the GCP console, Microsoft’s Emissions Control Panel is a Power BI Pro application that requires setup and cost. “The emissions panel works on Power BI Pro. Get the free trial of Power BI Pro document setup.
The impact of Range 3 is difficult to measure reliably, and ultimately measuring the power consumed by cloud resources is perhaps the most valuable when it comes to cloud-based dashboards like this. There is one argument that the public cloud is inherently more efficient, thanks to shared resources, than local computing, even if it is more expensive.
One thing that is certain is that reducing unnecessary consumption of computing resources will also benefit sustainability. Given the way in which all these public cloud providers encourage customers to use an increasing amount of premium and sustainable resources and reward customers for committing to long-term use in advance, we need to be allowed some skepticism about these boards for management, although it is also true that efforts made to make their data centers more sustainable have real value, given the scale of their use. ®