sustainability reports

When prepping for this month’s sustainability blog, the song, June is Busting Out All Over, from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, kept running through my head; possibly as it’s in May, June, and July, when the majority of companies sustainability reports are released.

Once the reports are released, the sustainability experts focus on whether a company is meeting its ESG commitments. In 2023 when TSMC released its ESG report, Green Peace protested that TSMC was not adapting renewable energy quickly enough and that TSMC should get to net zero sooner than 2050.

When final reports for the 2023 year are released, I am sure there will be some comments regarding sustainability progress, hopefully to the positive, as TSMC has moved up its net zero dates. Meanwhile, Francoise and I have recently posted concerns regarding data center power usage growing 40-68% from 2020-2022 for Alphabet, Microsoft, Meta, and Oracle. The growth in power needed is, at least at the moment, outpacing the growth of renewables and has the potential to impede the roadmap to net zero for these companies.

One of my many rants on the move to net zero is that while using renewables is one part of the solution another part of the solution is conservation. Essentially, I don’t think hyper-scale computing companies are doing enough on the conservation front. Comparing semiconductor manufacturing companies’ power increases from 2020-2022 to that of the hyper-scale data center companies, TSMC has increased power consumption by 27%, SK Hynix by 20%, Micron by 22% and Intel by 2.3%. These are considerably smaller increases than the data center numbers 40-68%.

sustainability reports
Figure 1: Annual electricity consumption of Intel, TSMC, Micron, and SK Hynix. (Source: Company ESG Reports, Kiterocket Insights)

The decline of Intel’s numbers from 2021 to 2022 is a result of selling their Dalian fab; however, Intel’s 2023 electricity consumption only grew from 9.0 to 9.1 billion GWh, so they are continuing to conserve electricity as they increase production.

Since Intel is one of the first semiconductor companies to release its 2023 corporate responsibility report, let’s dig a little deeper into the company’s sustainability numbers around CO2 emissions, renewable power, and water conservation. Intel has had a strong sustainability focus for a considerable time. It measures its GHG reduction back to 2006 and have made good progress in reducing its scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions to 0.9 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2023 from 4.0 million metric tons in 2006.

Figure 2: How Intel avoided Scope 1 and 2 GhG emissions. (Source: 2023-24 Intel Corporate Responsibility Report)

Figure 2: How Intel avoided Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions. (Source: 2023-24 Intel Corporate Responsibility Report)

Intel’s goals for CO2 reduction taken from its 2023-24 Corporate Responsibility Report are as follows:

  • To achieve a 10% reduction in absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 2040.
  • During 2023, Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions decreased 43% from the 2019 baseline. This decrease was due in part to the completion of energy conservation and other GHG reduction projects and renewable electricity purchases.
  • In 2024, Intel will continue to implement a project roadmap to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions while expanding manufacturing capacity around the world. The company says it expects to reduce approximately 25,000 metric tons of CO2e during 2024 through targeted projects within its operations.

Intel has also been active in the renewable energy space for more than a decade. In Santa Clara, the company had solar installations as early as 2010 and experimental wind turbines to generate onsite power in 2015. In 2023 Intel either purchased or generated 99% renewable power for the 9.1 billion kWh that they used for operations. This was an improvement over 2022, when it was at 93% of renewable power for operations. Intel currently generates 50,000 kW of power on 22 of its campuses, The remaining power was purchased from power companies or through Power Purchase Agreements. The Intel report cites Hydroelectric, Solar, Wind, and Geothermal as its source of renewable power.

Intel says it achieved 100% renewable power in the United States, Europe, Israel, and Malaysia operations in 2023. It also achieved 100% renewable electricity use in Vietnam and China for the first time. Intel says it is close to 100% renewable power in Costa Rica. Intel’s goal is to be at 100% renewable power for operations in 2030.

To accomplish this, Intel needs to develop additional renewable sources in Mexico and India, as well as increase the amount of renewable power resources in Costa Rica. To be at 99% renewable energy use for operations worldwide is a significant accomplishment, as in some countries it is challenging to develop renewable resources, due to government controls, or lack of available space for renewable installations. Intel will likely be the first to 100% renewable power for operations in the semiconductor manufacturing space. ST Microelectronics might beat them or will be a close second.

Another area that Intel has been working on for decades is water conservation. As Figure 3 shows Intel has reduced water withdrawals while conserving water usage since 2019. Intel’s New Mexico facilities have been working on water conservation nearly since they broke ground on construction back in the 1980s.

Figure 3: Intel’s water usage and conservation statistics from 2019-2023. (Source 2023-24 Intel Corporate Responsibility Report)
Figure 3: Intel’s water usage and conservation statistics from 2019-2023. (Source 2023-24 Intel Corporate Responsibility Report)

Intel says it has a two-pronged approach to its water policy: One is to conserve water in the operations and return that to the local water system, and the other is to fund projects that will restore watersheds. In 2023 Intel was 110% net positive water, which means they returned more to the watershed than they used. Intel continues to be net positive water in the United States and India and became net positive in Costa Rica and Mexico in 2023. By 2030 Intel’s goal is to conserve 60 billion gallons of water and to be net water positive worldwide.

While we have highlighted Intel in this discussion, several other semiconductor manufacturing companies are on their way to reducing CO2 GHG emissions to net zero by using renewable power and reducing scope 1 emissions. They are also becoming net-positive water by conserving and restoring local watersheds. Semiconductor companies are making great efforts to look at how to reduce power consumption, not only in semiconductor fabrication but also in the operation of the semiconductor itself.

As pointed out earlier, several companies have moved their net zero dates forward as they have made progress in their sustainability efforts. I’m hoping the rest of the microelectronics ecosystem takes notice, and we can learn how to conserve power in some of those data center operations. Then we can say sustainability is busting out all over.

Dean Freeman

Dean W. Freeman, Chief Analyst at FTMA, has over 36 years of semiconductor manufacturing and…

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