SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics is moving away from fossil fuels and aims to power its global operations entirely with clean electricity by 2050, an ambitious goal that experts say could be hampered by South Korea’s modest climate change commitments.
South Korea-based Samsung is a leading producer of computer memory chips and smartphones and, by some estimates, the biggest consumer of energy among hundreds of global companies that have joined the campaign “RE100” to obtain 100% of electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar energy.
In announcing its goal on Thursday, 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 including semiconductors by 2050.
It plans to invest 7 trillion won ($5 billion) through 2030 in projects to reduce process gas emissions, control and recycle e-waste, conserve water and minimize pollutants. He plans to develop new technologies to reduce power consumption in consumer electronics and data centers, which would require more efficient memory chips. It will also set long-term goals to reduce emissions in supply chains and logistics.
“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, CEO of the company, in a press release. statement sent by email.
Samsung’s plan has drawn praise from some of its investors, including Dutch pension fund manager APG, which said the company could potentially make a “significant contribution” to cleaning up Korea’s electricity market. of the South, given its impact and influence on the national economy.
But APG also expressed concern that Samsung’s announcement comes at a time when South Korea is backtracking on its climate change goals.
The conservative government of President Yoon Suk Yeol, which took office in May, has focused much of its energy policy on promoting nuclear-generated electricity. Desperate to revive a weak economy, Yoon’s government has also signaled its reluctance to sharply reduce the country’s reliance 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, which is significantly lower than the 30% average for wealthy countries in 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, softening the 30% target announced by his liberal predecessor, Moon Jae-in.
Samsung acknowledged that it would have a harder time converting to renewable electricity sources at home than in its overseas operations, where it aims to achieve 100% clean power by 2027. It said that South Korea’s renewable energy supply “has started to grow but remains limited”, while its electricity needs continue to grow as it ramps up production from its domestic semiconductor lines to meet to global demand.
“As a long-term investor in Korea, we are concerned about how the government plans to reconcile the industry’s desperate need for clean electricity to remain relevant in the long term,” said Yoo-Kyung Park, head of responsible investment and governance at APG for Asia-Pacific. , said in a statement.
Samsung, South Korea’s biggest company, has faced growing pressure to cut its carbon emissions as it lags behind some of its peers on climate commitments. These companies include Apple, a major buyer of Samsung’s chips, which joined RE100 in 2016 and plans to be carbon neutral across its manufacturing operations and supply chains by 2030, putting the pressure on its suppliers to meet these requirements.
Samsung is the jewel in the crown of an export-dependent economy, driven by the manufacture of semiconductors, cars, displays, cellphones and ships, industries that tend to have a strong energy consumption.
Samsung used 25.8 terawatt hours of electricity for its operations last year, nearly double the amount consumed by all households in South Korea’s capital of Seoul and more than other global tech giants like Google, Apple, Meta, Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing. Company.
Samsung’s embrace of clean electricity could have significant supply chain effects, pushing other companies to increase their renewable energy supplies, said Ousam Jin of the Seoul-based Corporate Renewable Energy Foundation.
“Most significantly, Samsung’s RE100 commitment sends a strong signal to the renewable energy market and policymakers to increase renewable energy supply given the company’s massive electricity consumption,” Jin said.