In the past decade, Intel has taken huge strides toward not only generating renewable energy, but conserving energy in its business and purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset the majority of its U.S. energy consumption. In 2001, Intel began to build its energy portfolio. Ten years later, it includes wind, solar, geo-thermal, small hydroelectric and bio-mass sources, and Intel has saved about 790 million kilowatt hours of energy, enough to power almost 69,000 homes for a year.
During the same period of time, Intel has invested more than $45 million, and launched and implemented over 1500 projects to encourage energy efficiency and resource conservation. Intel Capital, Intel’s global investment division, has also invested $150 million in 20 clean tech businesses. Energy conservation has become a high priority in every aspect of Intel’s business.
Although Intel began purchasing RECs just three years ago in 2008, it didn’t inch into the renewable energy market—it jumped in with a purchase of 1.3 billion, instantly becoming the largest purchaser of green power at that time. By 2010, the number had grown to 1.43 billion, and in 2011, it swelled to 2.5 billion – not only a 75 percent increase over 2010, but this REC purchase will exceed 85 percent of Intel’s estimated U.S. electricity use. 2.5 billion RECs roughly equates to the consumption of 202 million gallons of gasoline.
The 2011 purchase prompted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to again name Intel the largest voluntary purchaser of green power, and include the semiconductor manufacturer on its Green Power Partner List for 2011. In the past, Intel has also been honored with the EPA’s Green Power Leadership Award.
In 2010 alone, Intel planned and executed nine solar electric installations in four U.S. states and Israel. In June 2010, it opened its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certified building in Haifa, Israel. The solar installations are expected to generate 3.8 million kilowatt hours per year, and are now in use generating clean power for Intel facilities.
Each of the U.S. sites currently ranks among the 10 largest solar installations in its respective utility territory. The RECs generated are generally transferred to the local utility to support their regulatory programs and requirements.
How does Intel keep achieving its renewable energy goals and continue to focus on its energy conservation efforts? Employee engagement and participation. Intel believes that employee education and enthusiasm are critical to embedding sustainability even more completely into its business processes and culture.
Since 2008, Intel has tied a part of each employee’s variable compensation – from front-line employees to the CEO – to the “achievement of environmental sustainability metrics in three areas: energy efficiency of products, reductions in carbon footprint and energy use, and improvements in environmental leadership reputation metrics.” To educate employees on the company’s latest energy efforts (the nine solar energy projects completed in 2010) awareness kiosks are located in each site lobby to explain their creation and long-term benefits. The National Environmental Education Foundation also cited Intel, along with Lockheed Martin, eBay, and CitiGroup, as leaders in employee engagement in environmental conservation efforts in their white paper, The Business Case for Environmental and Sustainability Employee Education.
What do you think of Intel’s employee engagement strategy? Should companies that are struggling to implement and achieve energy conservation goals follow Intel’s lead and tie them to employee compensation?