On Monday, the EPA announced that Intel is the single largest corporate purchaser of green power in the United States putting the company at the top of EPA’s latest Green Power Partners Top 25 list, and also at the No. 1 spot on EPA’s Fortune 500 Green Power Partners list. A small team of Intel employees has been working long and hard to make this happen and at least one member of this team has been involved in this subject foryears. So, what does this really mean? This is great news and very significant for those that follow the renewable energy market, but as I’ve pointed out in past posts on various subjects … there is always more to the story and especially in the public announcements that companies or 3rd parties make. I’m really proud of Intel for stepping up on this subject in particular and I’m proud to be part of the team that worked on it. However, I feel a little like Paul Harvey, because I want to tell you “The Rest of the Story.” First some facts. What we actually announced is that Intel will purchase more than 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours a year of renewable energy certificates (RECs) as part of a multi-faceted approach to reducing our impact on the environment. Now, you just don’t go down to the corner market and buy 1.3 billion of anything. We had some key folks both internally and externally that gave us advice and helped us put the plan together. We made sure we received the best prices we could. We also specified only certified RECs. It was important to us to purchase a mix of renewable resources as well as make sure portions came from regions where we have significant factory investments and employees. EPA sets a high-bar for green power because not all forms of renewable energy have the same positive impact on the planet. They define green power as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources. The purchase will also be certified by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions’ Green-e® program which certifies and verifies green power products. RECs provide the market mechanism for companies to credibly purchase green power from the U.S. grid system. Green-e® has a good description of how RECs work, how they are accounted for and how they help build a market for renewable energy on their website. According to EPA, those 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours of green power has the equivalent positive environmental impact of avoiding the CO2 emissions from more than 185,000 passenger vehicles per year, or the equivalent electricity needed to power more than 130,000 average American homes annually. They also gave us a few other fun facts such as more than 114,721,000 gallons of gasoline or 2,350,450 barrels of oil consumed, but the one that stuck with me visually was a mile-long string of freight cars filled with coal. One point I wanted to make (and what might get lost in the press) is that this purchase is only part of our long-term, overall approach that includes energy efficient products and a comprehensive energy conservation strategy in our operations. Our goal isn’t to always be #1 on this list (frankly, I know that at some point – maybe soon – there will be another #1 – that would be success in my book). We believe that by entering the renewable market in a significant way, we will help provide a real stimulus to the renewable market, spurring additional demand and ultimately, more green power and lower costs. We will continue to look for new ways to conserve energy and reduce our climate or carbon footprint in our products and operations. Since 2001, we have had a special energy conservation capital funding program that comprehended some of the longer-term returns (savings) vs. short-term ROI. Through this program, we have invested more than $20 million in over 250 projects that, in turn, have saved more than $42 million and more than 500 MkWh. Conservation has always been our primary focus. It makes business sense that any investor can appreciate. We know that the future requires commitment and investment. We’ve always invested in the future of our employees and factories. I guess this could be considered an investment in our planet. We’ve received an avalanche of support externally – even treehugger.com “agreed that this was a good strategy.” Only time will tell if this strategy helps truly drive additional availability of green power and lower costs for future purchasers. We all realized this isn’t an end point, just a milestone on a long road.
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