Investing Big in Renewable Energy

I’m having a little déjà vous this week. Almost exactly three years ago, I was sitting at my cubicle on a very similar sunny Arizona day, working with a number of my colleagues on the exciting announcement that Intel had just become the largest voluntary purchaser of green power according to the U.S. EPA.

OctotilloSolar2.jpgFast forward to our announcement on Tuesday that we have expanded upon this commitment and increased our purchase to 2.5 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy credits (RECs) in 2011, a 75% increase over our 2010 commitment. This equates to more than 85 percent of Intel’s estimated purchased electricity needs in the U.S. for 2011. Our increased commitment placed us again atop the EPA’s updated Green Power Partner list for 2011, which includes a diverse group of organizations, from Kohl’s and Whole Foods to the state of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Air Force.

People often ask me – so why the RECs? Shouldn’t you just focus on cutting your energy use? The truth is, neither one by itself is going to address long-term energy issues. It’s why we have adopted a portfolio approach to energy – we purchase RECs to help spur market demand and make renewable cheaper over the long run, basically it’s an area we identified where we could demonstrate leadership and encourage others to join us. We’ve combined the purchasing of green power and the physical projects of solar together to make a more holistic approach to supplying greener energy supplies to our facilities, which are also running more efficiently as a result of over a decade of conservation efforts.

Since 2001, Intel has invested over $45 million and completed approximately 1,500 projects to improve energy efficiency and resource conservation, saving roughly 790 million kilowatt hours of energy — enough to power nearly 69,000 average American homes for a year. We also continue to invest in the development of future renewable energy technologies; Intel Capital, Intel’s global investment arm, has invested more than $150 million in approximately 20 clean technology businesses in the past few years.

Intel-Folsom-solar.jpg Now, being in Arizona with more sunshine than we know what to do with (my sincere sympathies to all my friends and family buried in the snow this week), I’m also very proud of the work we’ve done in the past year to expand our solar installations at a number of our sites. Over the past year, we’ve completed nine solar installations at our locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Israel, collectively generating more than 3.8 million kilowatt hours per year of solar energy (see the pics of the new installation in Arizona and the beautiful wavy ribbon ones from our Folsom campus).

And since I spend a lot of my time looking at the issue of employee engagement around sustainability, one cool thing is that we’re also setting up awareness kiosks are set up in each site lobby to educate and engage employees in the company’s energy efforts (which they pay attention to even more than they did three years ago, since we’ve been linking their pay to environmental metrics and have included environmental responsibility as a key component of our overall global strategy and vision.)

Intel has been engaged in sustainability efforts for decades now – and it’s frankly hard sometimes to see dramatic results or find new low hanging fruit. But it’s days like today where I can take a step back and reflect more on the results of those cumulative efforts and be reminded of all the people within the company who are finding ways to challenge us to do more to lead in the sustainability space, from executives like Brian Krzanich who provide vision and commitment and colleagues like Marty Sedler who worked tirelessly with people around the company to get the solar installations in place.

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