We had a chance to discuss Intel's major clean energy purchase with Bill Calder, Intel's spokesman. We asked him if Intel had considered generating renewable energy in-house like Google with its solar initiative. His answer: For a very large industrial manufacturer like Intel, it would not have made sense to try to do it themselves. Or at least, they could not have done it for the 1.3 billion kwh that they ended up purchasing from Sterling Planet.Mr. Calder emphasized that Intel's goal with the purchase is to spur investment in clean energy generation capacity and increase the market for it. It is part of Intel's multi-faceted approach to becoming a greener company (which also includes energy efficiency, reducing water-usage, etc).
Intel has specified to its supplier that it wanted all renewable sources represented in its portfolio (so there's wind, solar, micro-hydro, biomass, etc), but even if they had wanted to get it all from one source such as solar, there's probably not enough supply of it right now in the U.S. to meet such a massive order.
On the business and investor side, Intel has been recognized in the Global 100 List in 2008 which describes itself as a list of "the most sustainable corporations in the world". It was also recently recognized in the Davos 2008 Global 100 List, ranked at the top of Corporate Responsibility Officer Magazine's Best Corporate Citizen list for technology hardware companies and made the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 9 years in a row.
Intel hopes that its competitors will want to follow its lead, but they also think that the real benefit from such a large renewable energy purchase is to help bring down the cost of clean energy. We at TreeHugger agree that this is a good strategy; It's always more convincing to the bean counters at any big corporation to learn that clean energy is cost-effective than to ask them to buy it out of the goodness of their hearts. This is why we think putting a price on carbon would create a framework where everybody, following their own self-interest, would also help nature and the development of cleaner technologies.
Another question for Intel was: Do they have plans to go over their current 46% ratio of clean energy? The answer was a qualified "yes". At present time, it's not even sure that they could have put together enough clean energy to meet 100% of the company's needs, at least not at a cost that makes sense. But they are definitely open to increasing their ratio of clean power in the future as supply and prices conditions evolve.
We at TreeHugger love good news, and we think this qualifies. We encourage Intel to go even further and not to rest on its laurels. It now seems like the ball is in other major industrial players' court. Come on guys, lets get moving!