Apple cleans up China with fresh renewable energy projects

Apple hopes the new schemes will drastically reduce the carbon footprint of its partner manufacturers in the region.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Apple has launched two new programs designed to bring down the environmental costs of manufacturing in China.

Climate change and the ever-increasing usage of fossil fuels is not putting much pressure on businesses at the moment, but it's only a matter of time. Companies want to seem more sustainable and generate less of a carbon footprint as a tactic to appeal more to consumers who care -- and regulations are becoming tighter as governments try to at least make a token effort at climate control.

It's not just about the environment, oil, coal or gas, though. If companies are willing to invest in renewable energy, eventually this initial investment can pay for itself with energy cost savings and the possibility of selling clean energy back to the grid.

On Thursday, the Cupertino-based firm revealed two new programs which are aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of manufacturing partners in China. According to the tech giant, the projects will remove over 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses from the manufacturing cycle between now and 2020, which is the equivalent to taking nearly 4 million passenger vehicles off the road for one year.

The first project the company intends to follow through is the construction of 200-megawatt solar projects in the northern, eastern and southern regions, which will begin to help offset the energy used in the Chinese manufacturing supply chain.

The second scheme is a new initiative intended to push Chinese manufacturers in the supply chain to be more energy efficient and make better use of clean energy rather than relying on finite fossil fuels.

Apple will partner with Chinese suppliers to install more than two gigawatts of clean energy sources in the next few years, as well as provide assistance to suppliers for energy audits and regulatory guidance.

Apple also announced the construction of solar farms in the Sichuan Province is now complete. Revealed in May, the solar plants were launched alongside a forestland renewable energy and environmental protection program.

This step is crucial to the iPad and iPhone maker for a sustainable business model as the solar projects generate 40 megawatts of solar power -- more than the electricity used by Apple offices and stores in China. As a result, Apple claims the company is now carbon neutral in China, where it operates 19 corporate offices and 24 retail stores in Greater China and employs approximately 10,000 people.

In total, Apple says 87 percent of its operations worldwide are powered by renewable energy sources, but the overall goal is to bring this to 100 percent.

The only step left is to go down the supply chain and clean up the act of partner manufacturers developing components and assembling Apple products.

Tim Cook, Apple's CEO commented:

"Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time, and the time for action is now. The transition to a new green economy requires innovation, ambition and purpose.
We believe passionately in leaving the world better than we found it and hope that many other suppliers, partners and other companies join us in this important effort."

Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn, is not absent from the clean energy push. As a major partner within Apple's supply chain, the Taiwanese manufacturer also intends to generate clean energy through the launch of a 400-megawatt solar plant in the Henan province by 2018.

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