SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Samsung Electronics is transitioning away from fossil fuels and aims to power its global operations entirely with clean electricity by 2050, a challenging goal that experts say could undermine modest commitments South Korea’s climate change.
South Korea-based Samsung, a leading producer of computer memory chips and smartphones and the second largest energy consumer behind Walmart, is among hundreds of global companies that have joined the “RE100” campaign to source 100% of electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar power. .
Announcing its goal, the company said it aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions across its mobile devices, TV and consumer electronics divisions by 2030, and across all global operations including semiconductors by 2050.
It plans to invest 7 trillion won ($5 billion) during 2030 on projects aimed at reducing emissions from process gases, controlling and recycling electronic waste, conserving water and minimizing pollutants. It plans to develop new technologies to reduce power consumption in consumer electronics devices and data centers, which would require more efficient memory chips. It will also set long-term targets to reduce emissions in supply and logistics chains.
“Samsung is responding to the threats of climate change with a comprehensive plan that includes reducing emissions, new sustainability practices and developing innovative technologies and products that are better for our planet,” said Jong-Hee Han, the company’s CEO, in an emailed statement. .
Samsung’s plan drew praise from some of its investors, including Dutch pension fund manager APG, who said the company could make a “significant contribution” to cleaning up South Korea’s electricity market, considering its influence and impact on the national economy.
Sam Kimmins, director of energy and head of RE100 at the London-based Climate Group, which is leading the clean electricity initiative, said Samsung’s commitment would send a message to others in the market that “it is possible, and essential, to move to 100 % renewable electricity.”
However, APG expressed concern that Samsung’s announcement comes at a time when South Korea is dialing back its climate change targets.
The conservative government of President Yoon Suk Yeol, which took office in May, has focused much of its energy policy on promoting nuclear electricity. Desperate to prop up a weak economy, Yoon’s government has also expressed reluctance to sharply reduce the country’s dependence on coal and gas, which generate about 65% of South Korea’s electricity.
South Korea got 7.5% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2021, well below the 30% average among wealthy nations that are part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Yoon’s government recently adjusted the country’s renewable energy target to 21% of the total energy mix by 2030, reducing the 30% target announced by his liberal predecessor, Moon Jae-in.
Samsung admitted that converting to renewable electricity sources at home would be more difficult than at its foreign operations, where it aims to go 100% clean energy by 2027. It said energy supplies in -renewed in South Korea “started to expand but still limited. ,” although its electricity needs continue to rise as it boosts production at its domestic semiconductor lines to meet global demands.
“As a long-term investor in Korea, we are concerned about how the government plans to address the industry’s desperate need for clean electricity to stay relevant in the long run,” Yoo-Kyung Park, APG Asia Pacific head of investment and responsible governance. , said in a statement.
Samsung, South Korea’s largest company, has faced growing pressure to do more to reduce its carbon emissions as it lags some of its peers on climate commitments. Those companies include Apple, a major buyer of Samsung’s chips, which joined the RE100 in 2016 and plans to be carbon neutral across its entire business and manufacturing supply chains by 2030, pushing its suppliers to meet these requirements.
Samsung is the crown jewel of an export-dependent economy driven by the manufacturing of semiconductors, cars, display panels, mobile phones and ships, industries that tend to have high energy consumption.
Samsung used 25.8 terawatt hours of electricity for its operations last year, which was almost twice the amount consumed by each household in the capital city of Seoul in South Korea and more than other global technology giants such as Google, Apple, Meta, Intel, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing. Company.
Samsung’s take on clean electricity could have significant supply chain effects, pushing other companies to boost their renewable energy supplies, said Ousam Jin of the Seoul-based Corporate Renewable Energy Foundation.
“What it means is that Samsung’s RE100 commitment sends a strong signal to the renewable energy market and policy makers to increase the supply of renewable energy considering the company’s massive electricity usage,” Jin said.