Updated on August 29, 2019

Sony’s Challenge to achieve the RE100 commitment

Sony’s Environmental Initiatives — Working Toward a Zero Environmental Footprint

Road to Zero is Sony’s long-term environmental plan to realize a zero environmental footprint by 2050. Every five years, Sony establishes a set of environmental mid-term targets on the Road to Zero and is currently implementing initiatives to achieve the Green Management 2020 targets for fiscal 2016–2020. Sony is pursuing a number of priority initiatives to achieve these targets including efforts to accelerate the use of renewable energy. Sony joined RE100, a global initiative of companies that commit to using 100% renewable electricity for their operations, and is exploring new ways of using energy.

Joining the RE100 Initiative to Accelerate the Shift to 100% Renewable Electricity

RE100 is a global initiative led by the environmental non-profit The Climate Group*1 in partnership with CDP.*2 RE100 members commit to sourcing 100% renewable electricity for all their operations by no later than 2050.

Sony joined RE100 in September 2018 with the aim of further accelerating its progress on the Road to Zero. Sony has ambitiously set a goal of sourcing 100% renewable electricity for the worldwide operations of the Sony Group by 2040.

  • *1An international NGO with offices in London, New Delhi and New York. The Climate Group’s mission is to accelerate climate action to keep global temperature rise under 1.5°C. It does this by bringing together powerful networks of businesses and governments that shift global markets and policies – so that further and faster progress can be made on climate action.
  • *2CDP is an international non-profit that drives companies and governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, safeguard water resources and protect forests. Backed by investors with assets of $87 trillion, it runs a global environmental disclosure system used by thousands of companies and hundreds of cities, providing data analysis and expert insights.

Current Energy Use and Roadmap to the RE100 Commitment

Renewable electricity currently accounts for roughly five percent of the total electricity needs of the Sony Group. Sony’s operations in Europe have already been sourcing 100% renewable electricity since fiscal 2008, and renewable electricity use is increasing worldwide. Sony’s challenge is to address its electricity demands in Japan, where its semiconductor manufacturing operations use a significant amount of electricity. Eighty-three percent of the Sony Group’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, converted to CO2 equivalent, are from Japan, necessitating further initiatives to source renewable energy initiatives in Japan in realizing the goal of sourcing 100% renewable electricity.

Sony’s roadmap to achieving the RE100 commitment sets an initial target of sourcing 30% renewable electricity by 2030, by increasing its sourcing of renewable electricity for its operations in Japan, the US, and China, as well as switching to renewable electricity in other regions. Sony has set a regional target of sourcing 100% renewable electricity for its US operations by 2030, ahead of the global target. Sony will further accelerate its sourcing of renewable electricity in Japan beyond 2030, in order to ensure that the entire Sony Group sources 100% renewable electricity by 2040.

The Chonburi Factory of Sony Technology (Thailand) Co., Ltd. (STT-C)

Sony’s Challenge in Japan: Pursuing Three Approaches to Sourcing 100% Renewable Electricity

Sony is implementing the following three approaches to sourcing and increasing its use of renewable electricity in Japan. Firstly, Sony is installing solar energy systems. In addition to actively installing solar panels at various business locations worldwide, Sony is installing solar energy systems at its semiconductor manufacturing operations in Japan, in order to increase the ratio of renewable electricity. In 2019, Sony installed 5,760 solar panels at the Kumamoto Technology Center of Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation, bringing a mega solar power project online with an estimated generating capacity of 1.24 million kWh per year.

Secondly, Sony is directly sourcing renewable electricity from power utilities. In fiscal 2017, TEPCO Energy Partner, Inc. began offering an electricity plan sourced entirely from hydroelectric energy, the first of its type in Japan, and Sony became the first corporate customer on this plan. Furthermore, Sony began procuring electricity generated by hydroelectric energy and geothermal energy from Kyushu Electric Power Co., Inc. in May 2019.

Thirdly, Sony is using Green Power Certificates. Sony jointly developed the Green Power Certification System with power utilities in 2001. Organizations such as companies and municipalities bear the cost of the system and commission renewable power generation to energy producers across Japan. The electricity generated by these producers is sold in local markets and Green Power Certificates are issued to the organizations that commissioned the energy production. This scheme enables organizations in remote areas to adopt renewable energy, while crediting organizations for purchasing and using the renewable electricity that was generated. Sony continues to be the largest purchaser of Green Power Certificates in Japan.

Expanding Semiconductor Device Business and Reducing CO2 Emissions at the Same Time: Pursuing Stable, Highly Efficient Energy Use

In Sony’s semiconductor device business, CMOS image sensors are key component devices supporting the growth of industries such as Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and autonomous vehicles, and they are also an essential part of Sony’s strategy to generate social value from a long-term perspective.

At the same time, the Imaging & Sensing Solution Business, with its manufacturing operations for semiconductor devices including CMOS image sensors, which are mainly located in Japan, accounts for the largest share of Sony’s CO2 emissions. Manufacturing semiconductor devices uses significant amounts of electricity to thoroughly remove airborne contaminants and dust from clean rooms, and to apply precise temperature and humidity control. The manufacturing equipment also uses significant amounts of electricity and requires a stable energy source to maintain high productivity.

Due to these factors and because solar power generation is weather dependent, electricity from solar power systems is not directly used for critical manufacturing equipment that requires a stable energy source, but it is used as an energy source for other applications within plants. For equipment that requires a stable energy source, other means such as Green Energy Certificates are used. This is how Sony balances the need to increase productivity and reduce the environmental footprint, selecting which energy source to use depending on the energy characteristics.

Sony believes it is critical to find a balance between growth in the semiconductor device business and reduction of environmental impact, in particular reduction of CO2 emissions, rather than believing that these goals are trade-offs and only one or the other is possible.

New Approaches

In addition to the three existing approaches, Sony is partnering with power utilities to realize an intracompany electricity transfer plan for renewable electricity. The system would connect electricity that is generated from private power generation systems such as solar power systems to the power grids of power utilities, and enable business locations to transmit and distribute the electricity between themselves. The system would facilitate the timely and efficient use of generated electricity, so that a business location with excess electricity could transmit the electricity to another business location that is in need of the electricity, thereby facilitating the further use of renewable electricity.

In 2019, Sony took a stake in Digital Grid Corporation and joined the energy platform business that company has developed. Under the scheme, households can sell the electricity they generate, such as from solar power systems, to the party of their choice, and companies can procure this renewable electricity. The platform can finely predict demand, such as how much electricity is needed under given conditions, based on the transaction records on the platform. Optimizing the energy generation according to demand would lower the cost of supplying renewable electricity Sony believes that electricity trading on this platform can pave the way for efficient use of renewable electricity at low prices and in large quantities.

RE100 Members Working Together to Advocate for Policy Change

While Sony is taking various approaches to increasing its use of renewable electricity, from an international perspective, the market and framework for renewable energy in Japan remains insufficiently developed.

For example, existing rules in Japan for power grid systems work to limit the sale, purchase, and use of electricity generated by renewable energy through power systems, thereby discouraging investment in renewable energy and serving as a barrier to wider adoption. Specifically, existing rules specify the maximum electricity capacity of power grids while reserving a portion of this capacity for electricity from existing power plants such as thermal plants, effectively prioritizing it. Additionally, the maximum power grid capacity is set to a low value, assuming a case in which every output from every power source is at maximum output. Consequently, in some regions of Japan, the power grid has sufficient extra capacity but cannot be used, in actual practice, to carry renewable electricity to power systems.

These issues cannot be resolved just from the demand side, where Sony is situated. Cooperation with power companies on the energy supply side and with the government is needed. Sony will cooperate with other RE100-member companies and like-minded parties to propose that governments and related agencies make the changes needed to pave the way for further adoption and increased use of renewable energy.

Conclusion

There is a global trend for companies to commit to sourcing 100% renewable energy for their operations. Sony also sees this trend as reflecting the expectations of diverse stakeholders including business partners, investors, and civil society. From a long-term perspective, Sony views the shift to renewable energy as an important investment in its future and firmly believes that this decision will increase its corporate value. Renewable energy in Japan remains more costly than conventional energy, but it can be economically viable in the long term if it can be adopted on a larger scale under appropriate government policies and provisions. Moving forward, Sony will continue to cooperate with like-minded companies and stakeholders to call for further adoption of renewable energy in Japan.

In addition to addressing its own environmental impact, Sony, as a global company, believes it has a role to play in steering society toward renewable energy and further driving this change.

Quote from Mr. Sam Kimmins, Head of RE100, The Climate Group

"Committing to 100% renewable electricity through RE100 is a hallmark of leadership in the clean energy transition, and we’re delighted to have Sony as one of our members. As one of the world’s largest entertainment and technology companies, Sony is built on innovation — it’s a company that knows the value of being a leader. Through its RE100 membership, Sony sends a clear message that renewable power is the future, and that it makes business sense to lead the charge.

As part of a growing group of RE100 members in Japan, Sony is sending a powerful demand-signal for renewable power which is set to dramatically shift Japanese energy markets. Leading companies are clear that for them to remain competitive in global markets, supportive policy frameworks for corporate renewables sourcing are vital. By advocating for ambitious policy that enables a renewable energy future in Japan, Sony is going beyond its own operations to truly lead the clean energy transition — and we look forward to see many more companies following their lead."

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