Measuring datacenter energy and water use to improve Microsoft Cloud sustainability

The Microsoft Cloud is supported by 300+ datacenters around the world. As we grow our cloud infrastructure to meet customer demand, Microsoft is committed to the responsible expansion of our footprint and reducing our cloud’s environmental impact. Datacenters use energy and water to power, heat, and cool our cloud operations. We are investing in sustainability innovations and approaches that drive efficiencies and reductions in our energy and water consumption, through projects like free air cooling and rainwater harvesting, operating datacenters at a higher mean temperature, and more. We’re also looking ahead to future generations of datacenters with innovations such as using hydrogen fuel cells to replace backup generators.

With each new generation of datacenters, we strive to become more efficient and reduce impact on local energy and water resources. Power usage effectiveness (PUE) and water usage effectiveness (WUE) are key metrics relating to the efficient and sustainable operations of our datacenters. There are variables that can impact PUE and WUE—many of which relate to the location of the datacenter, including the humidity of the climate and ambient temperatures in the region. 

What is PUE?

Power Usage Effectiveness, or PUE, is an industry metric that measures the energy efficiency of a datacenter. It considers things like powering, cooling, and operating the servers, data networks, and lights. PUE is measured by dividing the total energy needed for a datacenter facility, by the total energy used for computing. The closer the PUE number is to “1”, the more efficient the datacenter.

Microsoft datacenter
power usage effectiveness (PUE) =
total energy needed for facility total energy used for computing

What is WUE?

Water Usage Effectiveness, or WUE, is another metric used to monitor the efficient and sustainable operations of datacenters. WUE looks at how a datacenter uses water relative to the electricity consumed and is measured in liters per kilowatt hour. Like PUE, there are variables that can impact WUE, such as datacenter locations being more arid or humid. WUE is measured by dividing the annual liters of water used for humidification and cooling, by the total annual kilowatt hours (kWh) used to power IT equipment.

Microsoft datacenter
water usage effectiveness (WUE) =
annual liters of water used for humidification and cooling total annual kWh used to power IT equipment
GeographyPUEWUE (L/kWh)
*Data for FY23 (July 2022 – June 2023) of datacenter geographies where we have data to share

100 percent of our electricity consumption, 100 percent of the time, matched by zero carbon energy purchases by 2030.

19.8 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy assets were contracted, including projects in 21 countries around the world.

Understanding the data 

Read more about how Microsoft factors PUE and WUE into how we design, build, and operate our datacenters:

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