Intel: Greenhouse Gases are Falling Even as it Expands Manufacturing Capacity

by | Jul 15, 2022

intelIntel Corp. is a multinational high-tech enterprise based in Santa Clara, Calif. It is the world’s biggest maker of semiconductor chips — if measured by revenue. Indeed, semiconductors are the brains behind the digital world — the mechanism that allows people to work remotely, stay connected to friends and family, and conduct personal and professional business. Intel’s mission statement is “to build world-changing technology that improves the life of every person on the planet.”

Intel is consistently ranked among the most eco-conscious companies. Since 2000, the company has sought to be a global leader in emissions reductions, water preservation, and waste generation — or the ability to reuse or recycle waste. For example, the company says that it has achieved net positive water in three countries and an 80% renewable electricity rate globally. It also says that the overwhelming about of its water is recycled.

“The company purchases more than 3.4 billion kWh of renewable energy certificates annually. That is equivalent to taking more than 455,000 passenger cars off the road every year,” says Ohio University in its Green Networking Case Studies. “Intel accomplishes this by harnessing renewable sources such as solar, hydro, geothermal, wind, and biomass energies. The company also has 18 on-site solar plants at several of its facilities. Intel’s goals of reducing emissions are realized through a combination of conservation, efficient building design, recycling, and sustainable water management.” 

When did Intel start on this environmental and sustainability quest? 

For more than twenty years, Intel says that it has been an environmental leader. In the area of recycling, the pursuits started in 2006. It included paper, plastics, metals, and wood. Intel’s operations in Arizona were able to recycle 74% of solid waste. The company says that the recycling program has saved approximately 2,898 trees, 48 acres of forest, 699,027 gallons of water, and 1,193,462 kilowatts of energy. 

Intel says that its CO2 emissions totaled 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020. Two-thirds came from running its operations and air travel, while a third came from its electricity usage. Going forward? 

— to drive a 10% reduction in its Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions between 2020 and 2030; 

— to reach net-zero by 2040; 

— to achieve net-positive water by 2030. It will conserve 60 billion gallons of water and fund external water restoration projects; 

  to achieve 100% renewable electricity use across its global operations and conserve 4 billion kWh of electricity by 2030. It is investing $300 million in this effort — something it started a decade ago; 

— to achieve zero waste in landfills and implement circular economy strategies for at least 60% of its manufacturing waste streams by 2030, and  

— to build new factories and facilities to meet U.S. Green Building Council LEED program standards, including recently announced investments in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

“Intel has been a leader in sustainability results for decades. With leadership comes responsibility. We’re now raising the bar and entering an exciting era to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across our operations by 2040,” said Keyvan Esfarjani, executive vice president and chief global operations officer at Intel. “This will require significant innovation and investment, but we are committed to doing what it takes and will work with the industry to achieve this critical mission.”

Intel is also committed to bringing its supply chain into the loop —to help those upstream become eco-aware. Such a Scope 3 strategy will focus on partnering with suppliers and customers to reduce emissions. The goal is to minimize those Scope 3 emissions by 30% by 2030.

When did Intel set out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

It says it started two decades ago to cut heat-trapping emissions. Those efforts were coupled with using energy conservation and renewable energy. As a result of these actions, Intel says that it has avoided nearly 75% of its cumulative Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions for the last decade — emissions generated in its operations and by the electricity it buys.

Energy conservation is critical: cumulatively, it has saved 486 million kWh of electricity from 2020 to year-end 2021. That has saved the company more than $30 million. 

“We collaborate with others in the semiconductor and other manufacturing industries to identify new and innovative approaches to reduce emissions,” it says. 

For the last two decades, the goal has been to cut its CO2 levels by 80% — from 2000 levels by 2050. In recent years, its greenhouse gases have increased — a function of its manufacturing processes. However, since 2000, its greenhouse gases have fallen by 19% — even as it expanded its manufacturing capacity.

Intel also purchases green power certificates and operates renewable power projects to run its buildings. Over the last five years, its green energy supplies and purchases have totaled more than 30 billion kWh — enough to power 2.8 million homes for a year.  Intel has more than 100 renewable electricity installations across 23 campuses. It has 15 more under construction. By 2020, it had reached 100% renewable electricity in its US and European operations, 50% for its Israeli operations, and 71% globally. 

How are these results verified?

For more than a decade, Intel says that it has maintained third-party verification through the International Organization for Standardization. 

“To minimize our emissions of particulate matter (PM) including PM less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and carbon monoxide (CO), we use emissions reduction strategies, including abatement equipment such as rotary concentrator thermal oxidizers, wet electrostatic precipitators, wet scrubbers, and ultra-low NOx burners,” its environmental statement says. 

It says that it also conducts regulator environmental, health, and safety assessments at its sites. Its audits include in-depth documentation and reviews, along with interviews with those overseeing the areas.

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