Apple Inc. (AAPL), Intel Corporation (INTC) & Ten Companies Pioneering Green Energy Usage

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There aren't many people who will suggest that Kohl's Corporation (NYSE:KSS) is a subversive threat to our existence as we know it. Lucky for you, dear reader, I am one of them. As our elected officials and fossil fuel lobbyists engage in never-ending battles to ensure we maintain our energy status quo, many corporations are quietly making big investments to brighten our energy future. Today I'm looking at the top 10 finishers on the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership list. The agency ranks 50 entities, and you can see the whole list here.

The leaders The EPA's rankings are based on three factors: renewable energy certificates, on-site generation, and utility green power products. The top 10 organizations on the EPA's list are as follows:

Rank Company Green Power
1 Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) 100%
2 Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) 80%
3 Kohl's Department Stores 105%
4 Whole Foods 107%
5 Wal-Mart 4%
6 U.S. DOE 14%
7 Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) 101%
8 Starbucks* 70%
9 Lockheed Martin 30%
10 Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) 85%

Source: EPA. *Company-owned stores only.

The ranking criteria explain why a company like Wal-Mart can rank fifth, despite generating only 4% of its electricity usage from green power. The company ranks first in the nation for on-site green power generation, producing more than 174 million kilowatt hours on-site.

Intel Corporation (INTC)Greenest of the green According to the EPA, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC)'s green power usage has the environmental equivalent of taking 455,000 cars off the road every year. The company generates on-site solar power at several facilities, but it purchases 3.1 billion kilowatt hours a year of renewable energy certificates.

Now would be an excellent time to remind ourselves what renewable energy certificates are. From the EPA:

"A REC ... represents the property rights to the environmental, social, and other nonpower qualities of renewable electricity generation. A REC, and its associated attributes and benefits, can be sold separately from the underlying physical electricity associated with a renewable-based generation source."

Essentially, when producers generate renewable energy, they create one REC for every 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity that hits the grid. The RECs can either be sold with the electricity, or separately. If sold separately, the electricity is no longer considered "green." The system allows for the tracking of renewable generation, and for customers to buy "green" electricity when there isn't any available locally. You can read more about RECs here.

Runners-up Microsoft has reduced its carbon emissions by at least 30% compared with its baseline 2007 emissions. The company is now committed to achieving carbon-neutrality, an ambitious goal if there ever was one, especially for a tech company.

Kohl's Corporation (NYSE:KSS) is a bit of a teacher's pet when it comes to the EPA. It has been listed as the Green Partner of the Year three times since 2009. The company uses on-site solar panels to generate 2% of its electricity, and purchases the rest of its green power.

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