Microsoft and the Chelan County Public Utility District on Friday announced two new agreements — one that will send hydroelectric power to the Redmond-based software company, and another that will launch a collaborative effort to increase access to broadband in rural Central Washington.
Microsoft has been the largest corporate customer of Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy, which draws electricity from a mix of natural gas, coal, hydroelectricity and other resources, and the deal — in part — reflects an effort to green its corporate footprint.
The five-year power agreement calls for Microsoft to purchase an average of 50 megawatts of electricity, according to Neil Neroutsos, a spokesman for Chelan County PUD.
Since the power will come from generating units on dams, it will not produce carbon emissions. This will meet Microsoft’s requirement for clean energy.
Microsoft also agreed to work with the PUD to offer more broadband service in rural Chelan County. Currently, about 75 percent of county residents have access to broadband, according to Neroutsos, and Chelan hopes to provide that access to at least 85 percent.
“We’re proud to be powering our Puget Sound operations in a way that reduces carbon emissions, supports the clean-energy sector and supports connectivity,” said Shelley McKinley, a Microsoft general manager, in a written statement.
Chelan PUD General Manager Steve Wright said the partnership provides “immediate economic value for Chelan County” as well as long-term benefits.
This deal was preceded by a 2017 settlement that Microsoft reached with Puget Sound Energy to allow the software company to secure carbon-free power while still relying on the utility to deliver electricity. As part of that settlement Microsoft agreed to pay a $23.6 million “transition fee.”
Chelan PUD generates electricity from two dams on the Columbia, and a third on the Chelan River at the confluence with the Columbia. The dams produce about 1,100 megawatts of electricity annually, with the capacity to produce up to nearly 2,000 megawatts.
The agreements come as both the state House and Senate have passed bills that call for phasing out the use of coal and natural-gas generated electricity in Washington state.
Microsoft also is negotiating additional purchases of renewable wind or power-generated electricity expected to be operating within five years.