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Intel wires into green energy

Intel, the world’s biggest chipmaker, gave a boost to green power, becoming the largest corporate buyer in the US of renewable energy certificates (Recs).

Intel said it would buy 1.3m megawatt hours’ worth of certificates every year – enough to power about 130,000 US homes – in a multi-year contract.

The company is understood to be paying in the range of $4m to $10m for the certificates.

Recs are an indirect method of encouraging green energy use. Companies generating power from renewable sources, such as the wind and sun, are generally not profitable without subsidies because their energy is more expensive to produce than electricity from fossil fuels, but they get the same prices for selling it to the grid as conventional energy suppliers.

Recs provide an extra income stream for renewable generators, as companies and individuals can buy the Recs with the aim of encouraging greater investment in renewable power.

Many companies use the Recs as “carbon offsets” to balance out the negative impact of their activities on the climate.

However, an investigation by the Financial Times last year found that in some cases Recs did not make the difference between profit and loss for wind companies, but enriched generators that would already have been profitable, in part thanks to other subsidies.

Intel’s investment overtakes that of PepsiCo, which has bought 1.1 gigawatt hours, and puts it at the top of a national league table compiled by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Intel has also been a purchaser of wind power in Oregon, where it has production facilities, and invested over $20m in more than 250 energy conservation projects over the last seven years, saving in excess of 500,000MW hours.

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