Report finds US semiconductor giants to drive surge in fossil fuel demand despite climate commitments

March 6, 2024
Intel, TSMC, Samsung, Micron to demand equivalent of 200% annual electricity consumption of Seattle

SEATTLE (Traditional Puget Sound Salish and Duwamish Lands) — A new report released today by environmental advocacy group that examines the U.S. wave of factory expansion by the world’s four largest semiconductor manufacturers finds that despite public commitments to 100% renewable energy across the IT sector and subsidies  from federal and state governments, the rapid facility expansion underway is poised to fuel an unprecedented new demand for dirty energy in states where these factories are currently under construction.

The report, titled Clean Clicks or Dirty Chips?, finds that Intel, TSMC, Samsung, and Micron rely heavily on unbundled renewable energy certificates (RECs) that do little to increase the supply of renewable electricity. Rather than following the approach used by Apple and Google to add renewable energy supply to power their fast-growing data centers, Intel and other semiconductor giants are using RECS  to greenwash the massive carbon footprint of their semiconductor factories.

The IT sector – accountable for 4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and rapidly rising – is under increasing pressure to make its reputation for innovation and leadership show up in its decarbonization strategies. Semiconductor factories are one of the most energy-intensive pieces of the IT sector supply chain, producing “chips” that are essential for powering the digital economy, which typically represent approximately 50% of the carbon footprint of many computing devices.

“The semiconductor business model has long been to outsource their manufacturing, but they don’t get to outsource their responsibility for the climate and air pollution caused by the fossil fuels powering the factories making their products. Rather than rely on false solutions like carbon offsets, Intel, TSMC, Samsung, and Micron need to follow the lead of companies like Apple and Google, which deploy new renewable energy to power their operations,” said Global Climate Policy Director Gary Cook.

The report surfaces several critical gaps in decarbonization efforts by the four semiconductor giants, including the following:

  • New semiconductor factories currently under construction by the four largest semiconductor manufacturers – Intel, TSMC, Samsung, and Micron – are expected to generate approximately 2.1 gigawatts in new electricity demand, which is more than 200% of the annual electricity consumption of the City of Seattle.
  • Unlike Apple, Google, and Meta – all companies that have met their 100% renewable energy commitments by bringing new renewable energy projects online to match their rapidly rising electricity demand – Intel, TSMC, Samsung, and Micron have thus far failed to secure additional renewable energy supply to meet their existing and future electricity demand in the U.S., relying instead on the purchase of unbundled RECs, despite strong evidence they do not meaningfully increase renewable energy deployment.
  • Intel and TSMC are building four new semiconductor factories in Arizona that are expected to consume as much electricity as 260,000 homes, but have failed to sign renewable power contracts to match this expansion, enabling local utilities to justify both a significant expansion in new fracked gas-fired power plants and a delay in the retirement of coal-fired power plants, over the strong objections of local communities.
  • Unless the renewable energy purchasing strategy of the semiconductor industry shifts to focus on adding new renewable energy to the local grid, their ongoing expansion threatens to increase investment and demand for fossil fuels in multiple U.S. states, and undermine federal and state targets to transition to zero-emission electricity generation.

The report also outlines recommended next steps for semiconductor companies, including aligning industrial and decarbonization policies, defining clear standards and collaboration by major customers, and strengthening reporting under the GHG Protocol.

“Consumers are tired of massive tech companies making ambitious climate promises and then dragging their feet when it comes to acting on those promises. The rapid scaling of domestic semiconductor manufacturing that has been triggered by the $53 billion U.S. CHIPS Act presents a unique opportunity to transition a critical piece of the IT sector’s supply chain to renewable energy-powered factories, supporting the ‘Net Zero’ and Carbon Neutral commitments that Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other IT giants have made,” said Global Climate Policy Director Gary Cook.

The release of Clean Clicks or Dirty Chips? adds to the findings of the Ctrl-Alt-Incomplete report released by last week, which finds that the ongoing failure by IT giant Microsoft to take meaningful action to transition its manufacturing supply chain away from fossil fuels has led to a skyrocketing of its emissions. Just this past week, Microsoft announced that it had selected Intel to manufacture one of its custom designed chips, a deal reportedly worth $15 billion. Yet as highlighted in Clean Clicks or Dirty Chips?, Intel lags far behind in taking meaningful action to transition its factories to renewable energy, relying heavily on unbundled RECs to mask  over 7 million tons of CO2 pollution from its factories in the U.S., Ireland, and Israel over the past three years.


Media contact: 

Shane Reese, Corporate Campaigns Media Director,, +1 919 339 3785 (Eastern Time)