The Upside of Cutting Down

This blog was posted on behalf of Tim Higgs, an environmental engineer with Intel’s corporate environmental organization.  Tim has been with Intel for 28 years in a variety of environmental positions at the site and worldwide levels, and has extensive experience in matters related to air permitting, air emissions control, energy efficiency and climate change.

I am thrilled to announce that on February 29, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented Intel with a Climate Leadership Award for excellence in greenhouse gas management. I had the honor of accepting this award on behalf of Intel, which recognizes the company as an industry leader in driving innovative solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Leadership Awards are being given for the first time this year, through a partnership between the EPA and three non-profit organizations that are widely recognized for their leadership on this issue.  We are very pleased to have our actions recognized by this diverse group and are proud to be one of the inaugural winners.

So what actions have we taken to reduce greenhouse gases and why exactly did we win this prestigious award?

Intel has long taken environmental responsibility seriously and as far back as the 1990s was instrumental in driving the semiconductor industry to the world’s first voluntary agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. Under that agreement, semiconductor companies pledged to reduce their emissions of certain fluorinated gases below their 1995 levels by 2010, despite the fact that the industry grew several fold over that time. These fluorinated gases, which are widely used in semiconductor manufacturing, have been demonstrated to effectively trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere, therefore contributing to global warming. This early leadership is a prime example of the proactive approach Intel takes to environmental issues, and a significant reason that we are routinely recognized as leaders by the EPA and other prominent government and non-government environmental organizations. 

After helping lead the industry to this groundbreaking agreement, Intel and the other participating organizations put considerable effort into developing new manufacturing processes that dramatically reduced emissions of the aforementioned fluorinated gases. Process steps were redesigned to reduce chemical use, new chemistries were introduced, and new tools were developed for destroying pollutants exiting the process. As a result, Intel significantly exceeded the industry goal by reducing its emissions by more than 40% from 1995 – 2010, a time when the company’s manufacturing grew by roughly 4X.

Energy conservation is another action that has enabled Intel to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas impact.  Most energy, of course, comes from the burning of fossil fuels which generates carbon dioxide (CO2), a known greenhouse gas. Since 2001, we have spent several million dollars per year implementing energy conservation projects across the company, which we estimate have saved 790 million kwhrs of energy over that time.

More recently, we have been very active in helping to spur the adoption of renewable energy sources.  Since 2008, Intel has been the largest purchaser of renewable energy in the U.S. Through these renewable energy purchases, Intel is helping to create demand for wind, solar and other renewable technologies that can help make the overall U.S. electricity supply cleaner. In addition, over the last few years, we’ve installed solar panels at many Intel facilities, which are now generating approximately 4 million kwhrs/yr of clean, renewable energy. 

While this award is recognizing our significant accomplishments to date, we realize that ongoing efforts will still be needed. As our operations continue to grow, we remain committed to reducing our overall environmental impact. And as new manufacturing processes are introduced, we will continue to implement our principle of designing with the environment in mind to help reduce the impact of those processes.

Linda Qian

About Linda Qian

Linda focuses on CSR communications both internally and externally with Intel's global Corporate Responsibility Office. She graduated in December 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Resource Studies from the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources. Follow Linda on Twitter at @lindalqian and @Intelinvolved. She is also active on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Instagram.

Comments are closed.