Corporate Sustainability: A Blueprint for Reducing Carbon Emissions | Intel Technology
- [Narrator] You're watching "InTechnology", a videocast where you can get smarter about cybersecurity, sustainability and technology. Here are your hosts, Tom Garrison and Camille Morhardt. (upbeat music) - Hi, and welcome to the "InTechnology" Podcast.
I'm your host, Tom Garrison, and with me, as always, is my co-host, Camille. And today we have a special guest from Intel, Jennifer Huffstetler. She is the corporate product sustainability lead for Intel. She's also a 26-year, almost 27-year Intel veteran, and we're happy to have her. I've worked with her for a lot of years, so this is a fun thing for me today, to be able to have her on as a guest on the podcast.
So, Jen, welcome to the podcast. - Thanks for having me, Tom and Camille. - Yeah, so today's topic, we wanted to talk about sustainability. And we've had a couple of guests already give a flavor for sustainability and what is it and whatnot. But we wanted to have you on today, to focus on what does it mean at a corporate level.
What are the kinds of things that you're looking at to try to achieve in your role at Intel, and what other companies might be able to take away from that? - In my new role, we're basically looking after where our customers have set goals, how to help them lower their carbon footprint as we're on this mission to achieve sustainable compute. And that builds upon this incredibly strong and long legacy that we have in our own internal operations, where, for decades, we've been looking after our environmental footprint in each of the locations where we operate. - And maybe for some of the people that aren't quite as familiar with that, can you give just some examples on, I guess, Intel as a company? What are some of the things that we've done, from a sustainability standpoint, that maybe people aren't aware of? - Yeah, it's a great question. We have, in the last decade alone, lowered our carbon footprint by more than 80% than it would've been otherwise. Some of the ways that we achieve that is through our extensive use of renewable electricity across our manufacturing operations. We've achieved over 80% up until this point, and are on track to continuing to hit our goal of 100% renewable electricity.
That translates directly into the products that we build in our factories. They're built with renewable electricity, which actually lowers their embodied carbon footprint. Intel's not only looking after carbon, we're also deeply engaged in water and waste, and so we have many projects that we put forth around the world to do water restoration in the local communities where our manufacturing sites are sitting. We also are looking at, Such that we've achieved net positive water. When you step back, that was one of our goals that we set as a company, and we actually achieved that just a few weeks ago.
So really seeing the precious resources that we have on the planet, energy, lowering the carbon emissions, water is another precious resource, and we're really looking to take care of our consumption of that. And then the last piece is about waste, and how much we're sending to landfills. Really looking throughout our operations to ensure that we're up cycling, reusing chemicals and other materials throughout our factories, such that we've now achieved 5% waste than it would've been without all of those activities as well. - So you're kind of going through what the manufacturing or production of the products that exit the manufacturing facilities are consuming. What about the products themselves, is that a focus also? - Yeah.
I have a partner in our operations who helps to drive all of that impact and that lowering our environmental impact in the product space, by classes of segments that we're operating in. Data center class processors, enterprise class PC processors. All of those are built with leadership, with this 80% renewable electricity. But now when you up level it to look at the product features, the platforms that they go into, and even for the data center world, we wanna look at the overall data center, and how it's architected. And then for an enterprise user or a consumer, where should they be running that workload? Can they make choices? Because we all know that it's human choices that are driving whether something is a higher carbon footprint choice or a lower carbon footprint choice. So we have product features and capabilities today as well as roadmap over time.
So I can describe a little bit more of those for you as well. - Yeah, I think most of our listeners would love to hear. I mean, obviously, you work in the data center part of Intel's business, but, obviously, as a company, we've got product groups across client business, the one that I actually am part of, we have a Internet of Things group and whatnot. So can you give us a flavor for some of the work that's going on in all of the groups to achieve our sustainability goals? - Yeah. Well, why don't we start first with your area, Tom? Our teams have been really working for several years to consider what would it look like to have a sustainable PC. In fact, we've just recently launched our most sustainable NUC ever, which is really looking, holistically, at the system design.
And so it not only includes features at a chip level, to ensure that when under AC platform operation that it power optimized, so it's only consuming the energy it needs when plugged in, but at the platform level, looking at the overall motherboard design, identifying whether there's ways to reduce componentry so you can have fewer components, which means, a smaller supply chain of impact as you're sourcing those materials, and even looking at the reference motherboard to figure out could you separate it into modular pieces so that you're not burdening an entire PC platform with the lowest common denominator that needs the most layers or carbon in a motherboard. So the team did a lot of great innovation already in a concept that was launched last year, in December, in partnership with Dell called the "Luna" concept. And they're now actively working on continuing to further that work, bio-based materials and beyond, to achieve a new goal, that they announced just this year, around lowering our reference platform.
So everybody doesn't buy a NUC or a Dell platform, but Intel enables the entire industry with our reference platforms, and they've taken on that goal to now lower the embodied carbon of those reference platforms by 2030. - Does Intel or other companies take into consideration the, I guess, carbon emissions, for lack of a better term, of the employee base, and consider that something that they have a purview over to try to help reduce, for example, flying in airplanes or daily commutes or things like that, that technology can alleviate if you were to make it a goal? - Yeah. So when a company is looking at their carbon reporting and their corporate social responsibility report, they're using another tool called CDP to roll up all the details. That's all included. It's everything in our embodied carbon footprint, what it takes to make a core processor.
It includes everything from what it takes to run the factory, any emissions that come from our factory, and then the upstream supply chain as well as those flights that we take, whether it's working on those designs with our partners in Asia, visiting customers, all of that's included for Intel. Everybody doesn't report equally, I think is something to know, that this is a fast evolving space, and the standards are still being debated, and they're not as clear. And that's an area where we're partnering with others to seek to drive standards, but we believe, foundationally, that you need to understand the whole impact that the products that you're building have if you're really gonna put action plans in place to reduce it. So, Camille, yes, there's things every employee can do, it's the miles we drive to and from work, whether using an EV, or electric vehicle or taking a gasoline powered car, all of those things go into that report. But we're really excited that we're in the process of activating across Intel's entire company, how do they align to support this vision that we have towards sustainable compute with that first major milestone that we've put out there. - So, Jen, you mentioned that not all companies do it the same way, and I'd like to try to explore that for just a second because I think most people understand, for Intel, we manufacture our own chips.
So we not only design our chips and whatnot, but we take it all the way through manufacturing, and then we sell out to our customers. But there's actually very, very few companies that do that. Most companies will design a chip, and then they will give it to another company to manufacture that chip for them. And in most cases, that's TSMC in Taiwan.
When a reporting actually happens, I'm curious, how do you take that information, which, in Intel's case, is end-to-end because we're in that unique position to report everything under this one roof, whereas other companies, maybe only if they're talking about sustainability, it's only their little bit of it, it's not the whole story. So how do you see that evolving over time? - How we're working with the industry is we've actually convened SEMI, is the consortia, where all of the semiconductor companies around the world convene, and our lead TD, technology development leader, Ann Kelleher, announced the green chemistry consortia, where we're really having a whole sustainability swim lane that has just been kicked off to start to address those issues directly, and to drive the standards across the semiconductor industry. And so we're really proud to help get that kicked off, and be one of the founding members of that. That's where you're gonna see the standards start to get defined and evolve. - What do you think is the driving reason for companies trying to engage in sustainability practices and products? I mean, is it to get more customers, is it out of the goodness of their hearts? What is it? What's driving it? It seems like such a great emphasis. In the last few years, there's been kind of a turn.
- Yeah, Camille, it's even been more recent than that, that folks have started thinking about it but in the last 18 months it just shot up. And I'd say the primary factor driving businesses, although the goodness of their heart, the care for the planet, leaving a legacy for their grandchildren or their children, those are all strong factors. The social demographic changes of the next generation expecting to work for a company that values and has a credible sustainability strategy is a new factor in even competing for talent.
But the primary reason is really regulations. We know that the EU is far advanced in the US on this, but even our own SEC has now put forth their draft proposals on how they're going to start driving standardization in the reporting, and really holding companies accountable to not, what's known as "greenwashing", just calling things green because they are. So, on the bright side, this is an area where, I think, regulation, in this case, is really going to be important, and more important to see the pivot in the investment across the global economy. Some examples of what's happened is data centers haven't been able to be built if a local economy has so much renewable power or total electricity even.
If you're an island like Ireland, and you bet part of your local economy on hosting data centers for Europe, limit. That segment of your economy takes up 17% of your total island's power. You notice. And when it's projected to grow to 30%, you're really looking for partnership from industry to demonstrate how they're gonna lower their power consumption, implement renewable energy to accommodate that growth. The same thing happens in the client space, where some of our customers were unable to ship product because they're not meeting these new regulatory requirements. So I think this is an area where the EU is ahead, and it's kind of leading the charge across the board.
And then you get the boards of companies asking what the strategy is within each company. So multifaceted. - So I'm curious if you can share with folks, as a product person, where you've now jumped into the sustainability role, some of the cool things that you're seeing. And one, for example, one that I'm aware of, and it's been around for a while, but now seems to be really taking off is immersion cooling in the data center, where you, literally, submerge the server boards, which are super hot, and you put it in a fluid, and the fluid boils, and then that's how you cool them, but it's non-conductive, because you think, "Oh, you put it in water, of course you'd fry the board, but if you do it in non-conductive fluid, you can do this." So there's some really cool technology things that are coming about. And, I'm just wondering if you have any off the top of your mind, or off the top of your head, that you could share with folks on what's happening.
- When you look at the data center level, there's many factors to consider. There's the energy, the efficiency of the utilization of the energy coming into the data center, known as the PUE, but there's also the water usage. And what's really exciting about the technology that you just mentioned, Tom, is that it not only enables higher compute density per watt, so you really think about that, that's really what everybody's looking for, am I able to get my work done with less power? You're able to do that in immersion by running the processors potentially even hotter than they are today. But the amount of work that could get done in a data center is still greater. And so you get a greater compute efficiency per power.
- But what people don't realize is it's not just the electricity, You think about pipe going into the CPUs in a server, that's the energy in to a data center, but you also have a bunch of energy out. So those electrons get transformed into heat. And so then you have to spend a lot of energy in a data center to keep it cool, and things like immersion help you in that regard as well. It's not a panacea, but it's certainly that density problem, and a cooling problem. You save a lot of money in a bunch of different ways. So, yeah, it's great for the planet, but it also is a way to solve these other problems.
- Yeah. You can actually reduce the failure of fans in a server because you don't need fans in a server because it's immersed. You don't need as much cooling, to your point, in the total data center, so you don't have to power the cooling system for the data center.
So those pieces get removed. And then, to your point on the heat that's generated, we're seeing a lot of data centers having showcases where they're able to reuse that heat. For purposes in Barcelona, they have connected that heat, which is now consistent, when you've got this cooling mechanism that is liquid based, you're keeping it at a constant temperature. Well, that's really a useful resource, going back to our limited resources that we have.
And we know over in Europe right now, the cost of heating is going up. But this is a consistent, renewable source of heat, and they've now piped it into the district heating. So it's something that becomes a benefit to the community, or the building. You could think data centers can go inside a building.
They don't all need to be football-field size. Even smaller data centers, many racks, you could still repurpose that heat. And we see even smaller customers in Europe doing the same thing. So there's a lot of benefits in that technology. I would say the other pieces that really matter, Tom, are the features inside the products that really help you to optimize the silicon that's already there in your data center.
So we look at a product like a Xeon, and there's been innovations over decades to put accelerator engines inside the Xeon to accelerate the workload, and offload the main core to do the rest of the work. So when a customer takes advantage of those aspects, they're really able to see up to a 4X improvement on their performance per watt by utilizing those accelerators inside the silicon. We've got software tools, libraries, reference architectures to help share how to utilize those, but, to me, that really is the number one thing that's gonna be able to help the planet. Today, software is really inefficient. We know that coder's role is to deliver their product time, or service time to market, and they, inherently, have become less and less efficient because they didn't need to, over the last decades, while more and more compute was delivered.
In the beginning, assembly code was very efficient because there wasn't a lot of compute resources, so you really had to be efficient with your code. So that's some of the work you're gonna see us driving around green software, really looking at your software efficiency, the energy use of your software, utilizing AI to scan your environment. And we've got a couple examples with customers where they're able to lower their power and their energy usage, which directly translates to carbon lowering as well, by 20%, in some cases 60%, across a range of use cases, whether it's logistics or telecommunication networks and beyond. And so when you really start to think of one of the key factors, overall, in lowering footprint, applying AI to your code to make sure it's efficient, to your overall processes in whatever business you are in. And you're gonna find efficiencies. You're gonna be able to optimize the power within the system that you have by utilizing the telemetry that we have on the platform as well as those accelerators that are inside the product.
- Are we starting to see that as kind of a major theme in marketing of software? I mean, has that arrived already? Because when you're talking about 17% of an island's energy consumption, if you can drop that by even just a little bit, that's obviously a big deal. So is it already happening? Has it been happening for a long time, or is this brand new?, this ability to, You're not even just talking taking advantage of the silicon through the software, but also looking at overarching workloads, and kind of optimizing even what hours you're running them, and things like that. - It's newer that folks are really looking at how to deliver a carbon impact to their CEO, to their board. That's why I mentioned the regulators, and then it comes through the board. Everybody is looking for ways that they're lowering their carbon footprint. So I think that focus is a little newer versus just getting the work done.
We're also starting to see customers relax what, previously, were pretty hard SLAs, so their service level agreement, and when they're looking at the trade off, like do I need the highest precision AI training or can it be a little bit lower, and I get 80 or 90% of the way, that's probably good enough given the power trade off. And so you're gonna start to see more customers make choices. It goes back to that human choice of is it really worth the extra energy for this particular workload? The research in academia, the examples through the customers are just starting to help demonstrate that direction that we really need to get to as a computing industry. I think the green software, the tools aren't yet there for the average developer to know. I mentioned that standards aren't that great, so when the average developer sees their bill, if you will, their energy bill, their carbon footprint bill, it's hard to know what's inside it because it's a black box, and you don't know what you're being reported. But that's one of the missions that we're on, is to try to build tools for developers to understand the energy usage and the carbon intensity of that by understanding where in the world they're operating.
Some locations have far fewer renewable electricity available, and your carbon intensity is gonna be higher for the same workload. So that part's very new. It'll take several years. But I'll just mention one of the other product pieces that Intel's really invested in is driving renewable electricity everywhere that we can. And so we have, through our IoT team that's focused on energy, the energy vertical, they've partnered across the ecosystem to pull together a consortia of a full solution or renewables, the hardware deployment, the software deployment, all the way down, whole reference architecture to enhance the substations in the grid because renewable electricity is inherently unreliable and it's unpredictable, and that's not what the current grids were built for, so you need a way to be able to handle that variable load line that's coming in, and ensure that, as you onboard renewables, that it doesn't have detrimental consequences to your overall grid, and your commitments to the rest of the customers.
So we're looking across the board, from the PC client, as we talked about, the data center, out to that network and the energy to really bring the renewables everywhere that we can. - Well, Jen, it feels like we could keep talking about this for a long time but I think we should end it here. But I do want to thank you for coming in to the podcast, and sharing the work that Intel's doing, and some of the exciting things that are coming across the industry. So thank you. - Yeah.
I'm very, very happy to have the opportunity to share it here, and thank you to listeners for your time. Appreciate it. (upbeat music) - [Narrator] Never miss an episode of "InTechnology" by Following us here on YouTube or wherever you get your audio podcasts. - [Narrator] The views and opinions expressed are those of the guests and author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Intel Corporation.