New Horizons for Chip Design


Q&A: How New Sustainability Agreement Helps Synopsys Accelerate Renewable Energy Development

Azure Sky Wind Farm

By Nell Triplett, Corporate Affairs Manager

The seismic social, economic, and environmental challenges of 2020 have jolted us into rethinking, reimagining, and resetting how we want to do things in the future. At Synopsys, we see this as an opportunity for innovation. The drive to innovate is embedded in our company culture, and 2020 has only amplified the need for unique solutions to address tough societal challenges.

We believe we have a positive role in the semiconductor industry through both our impact and influence. Synopsys recently formed a Low Power Taskforce to explore and recommend areas of sustainable differentiation in low-power system-on-chip (SoC) design.  We also achieved certification as a CarbonNeutral® company across our global operations for the second consecutive year, offsetting approximately 90,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020. Finally, we have announced a pledge to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 25% by 2024, in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. These goals are central to Synopsys’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitment to a future powered by the efficient use and responsible management of all resources.

As part of our drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, Synopsys has joined the largest corporate aggregated clean energy procurement agreement to accelerate the development of renewable energy. Our participation in the Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA) was driven by Barbara Donaldson, Synopsys senior vice president of workplace resources. I recently chatted with Barbara on what the agreement means in our effort to combat climate change.

Nell: How does the VPPA work and how does it contribute to our greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal?

Barbara: The VPPA brings Synopsys together with Akamai, Millipore, and Uber to finance the development and construction of the Azure Sky Wind Project in Throckmorton County, Texas, by Enel Green Power. Under the 12-year agreement, Synopsys has contracted 15 megawatts of wind generation capacity, an amount that can meet the annual electricity demands of roughly 5,000 average U.S. homes. The 111-megawatt wind farm is expected to come online in mid-2022.

This landmark agreement is instrumental to our ability to deliver on our ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 25% by 2024. The 15 megawatts of wind generation capacity will help Synopsys mitigate approximately 70% of our projected North American emissions, leading to new renewable energy on the grid and displacing fossil fuels.

Nell: What makes the structure of our VPPA unique?

Barbara: The VPPA was facilitated by Sustainability Roundtable Inc., which provides management teams with strategic advisory and support services to help them set sustainability goals, drive progress, and report results. In a traditional VPPA, a renewable energy buyer acquires renewable energy certificates (RECs) with the intention that the renewable energy exists only for the investment of the corporate buyer via the VPPA. Early VPPAs were available only to the largest corporate energy users—those with the demand and resources to acquire all of the output from a utility-scale renewable energy project of 50+ megawatts for at least 20 years. VPPA 2.0, which is the type that Synopsys has joined, provides a buyer-organized, aggregated approach that offers economies of scale so that buyers can band together to acquire RECs at smaller increments of renewable energy output and for shorter time commitments.

What’s different and even more impactful with our VPPA is that the agreement allows the participating companies to pool together their resources for new renewable energy development. We’re seeing an increase in decarbonization investments by large corporations, with nearly half of the Fortune 500 establishing renewable energy goals and/or carbon emission reduction targets.

Nell: How is Synopsys making Corporate Social Responsibility a point of differentiation?

Barbara: Our Corporate Social Responsibility program is focused on a future that is sustainable, secure, and fair. We have a clear vision of the road to a more sustainable future, and it is lined with LEED-certified buildings, data centers powered by renewable energy, carbon offset projects, and now bundled RECs. Synopsys is also getting noticed for our efforts. We were recently recognized for our social responsibility efforts by Newsweek, which included us on its list of America’s Most Responsible Companies 2021.

Stakeholders across the board, from customers to institutional investors and employees, are seeking climate leadership from businesses. Synopsys is answering the call to bring new clean energy resources online, which is a point of differentiation for our company.

Nell: Congratulations on being honored by the Sustainability Roundtable as its Sustainable Business & Enterprise Roundtable Outstanding Executive for 2020. Can you speak to what is next for sustainability leadership from Synopsys?

Barbara: Thank you! This recognition felt particularly rewarding because sustainability, though a passion, is not my area of expertise. I have learned a lot through this process and encourage all of us, regardless of our role, to be part of helping our organizations reach sustainability goals. The next area of focus will be reducing the carbon footprint of our supply chain. Since Synopsys leases most of its office buildings, we will look to landlords and developers to embrace renewable energy initiatives, and plan to establish leased space criteria and expectations.

We are extremely excited about the VPPA announcement because it adds momentum to our broader efforts to address the challenges of our time.

In Case You Missed It

Read more about Synopsys emissions reduction efforts in a previous blog post, “Advancing Sustainability Through Emissions Reduction and Low-Power Computing.”