High Energy Solutions for the World of Tech

A conversation with MIB alumnus Adrian Anderson on renewable energy and high-impact climate work
Adrian Anderson and his son pose for a selfie atop a snowy mountain

If you talk with Adrian Anderson F10 about his work, one word will stick out: energy. He has bright ideas about climate solutions. A self-described contrarian, he has opinions on the way people consider sustainability. Through it all, he wants to use concrete tools to improve the environment today.

Since 2014, Anderson has worked for major tech companies in the data center and carbon-free energy space. His resume is studded with the likes of Apple, Google, Amazon, and now Microsoft, where he leads the company’s renewable energy and carbon-free teams. Anderson is responsible for meeting Microsoft’s 2025 goals, which are being covered completely by matching with new renewable resources on an annual basis. Renewables are a key focus of Microsoft’s 2030 carbon neutrality goals covering Scope 3 Emissions, from its downstream emissions of sold devices like the Xbox to its upstream suppliers.

“My remit is thinking about how we reduce carbon emissions long term for the energy sector,” said Anderson. “Sustainability is such a broad topic. I don’t think about sustainability per se, but how do we create longevity for my kids? How are my actions today going to influence not only my kids’ actions but also the environment that they live in?”

For Anderson, this means getting into the nuts and bolts of solutions that can have an immediate impact by leveraging Microsoft’s sizable pipeline of projects and contracts. Working in renewable energy, he aims to rapidly progress the sustainability and electricity space by doing everything from looking at transmission to making the integrated resource plans process for utilities more transparent and getting away from redlining in transmission siting. Put simply: “We want to do more projects that have an impact in more people’s lives.”

Most recently, Anderson led a major collaboration effort with QCells to build out more domestic, green energy equipment manufacturing infrastructure. Owned by the Korean conglomerate Hanwha Solutions, QCells manufactures modules for solar power in South Korea and Malaysia, as well as domestically in the US. This deal with QCells represents a significant step for domestic production, green energy, and environmental justice and hopefully will lead to more transparency in green energy supply chains.

"A major corporate renewable energy buyer hasn’t done this before. We haven’t interacted in this way with the carbon free energy market; we hope that by using our credit quality and buying power we will incentivize more credit-worthy counterparts to building out facilities in the US,” said Anderson. “Hanwha is one of the only companies other than First Solar that has most of their production that can be either based in Korea or the US. We’re really helping to build out that green supply chain, not just doing power purchase agreements but going further down into the supply chain to really expand our sustainability work.”

Environmental justice is a core tenet of Anderson’s philosophy, and that’s inextricably linked with the team he works with and the founders he supports. He helped assemble Microsoft’s environmental justice program and set out to make deals with diverse founders in underserved communities. One of their first deals was with Volt Energy, a solar company founded by Gilbert Campbell. Alongside the energy agreements, Campbell wanted to kick off a workforce development program, and Anderson’s team created an EJ adder; for every megawatt of power that they buy, Microsoft pays a fixed price, of which a certain percentage of dollars is allocated to a fund, utilized for building out HBCU curriculums, creating community solar gardens, or improving and reducing energy burden costs.

“We don’t want to tell people what to do. We want them to tell us what they need, and we will figure out a way to fund it and put it in the parameters of our EJ program,” said Anderson.

Since launching their first two projects with Volt and SolSystems, they’ve developed new partnerships with stakeholders in the energy and climate movement. “We’re trying to make our environment justice program just our program—we want to just be doing that going forward,” he said. “We’re trying to push the bounds.”

“When I think about sustainability and working for tech companies, it’s largely said, sustainability is over here, and you think about water and ESG related to employees, or it’s energy related and that has largely focused on procuring renewable energy from projects. That’s great, but we’re not going very far doing that,” said Anderson. “We’re trying to say, we can continue purchasing renewable energy, but what else can we do? How else can we use our capital and influence to make a sea of change?”

As he has negotiated contracts and sought impactful innovations to move the needle in the industry, Anderson points to his MIB as critically helpful. His negotiation and finance classes, which gave him the most trouble as a student, have proven particularly illuminating.  

“The energy space is such a challenging and global space that spans contract negotiation, it’s geopolitical, it’s personal—you have to have really good hard and soft skills to manage all these discussions and analyses,” he said.

“I don’t know that I would get to have the same breadth of creativity if I didn’t go to Fletcher. At Fletcher, there was more interest in being creative and pushing the bounds, even if you didn’t come to a final conclusion at the end.”

Read more about Fletcher's MIB degree program.