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Intel vs. Dell: Friends in the Field, Competitors on Sustainability?

Chip giant Intel (s INTC) and PC manufacturer Dell (s DELL) are anything but fierce competitors — Dell’s computers have been rocking Intel Inside for as long as I can remember (though Dell did hook up with Taiwanese chip maker Via recently). But when it comes to touting sustainability, Dell and Intel lately seem to have been smiling through gritted teeth while trying to grab the greenest tech company crown.

Today Intel released its corporate sustainability report for 2008, which touts the EPA’s declaration that last year the company became “the largest purchaser of green power in the U.S.” Out of the EPA’s Top 50 Green Power Purchasers, Intel ranked the highest in terms of total green power bought per year, with 1.3 billion kWh. Intel is also working on reducing energy use and in its CSR report says that in 2009 it will invest over $5 million on more than 30 projects that will save 30 million kWh of electricity from its operations.

Ranking three slots lower than Intel on the EPA list was Dell. The EPA said Dell was the fourth-largest corporate buyer in terms of the total annual amount of green power, with 553.71 million kWh per year. The interesting part is that Dell actually buys a greater percentage of green power out of its electricity use, at 158 percent (factoring in offsets). While Intel’s total green power purchase is greater, it represents only 46 percent of its total electricity use (offsets included there, too). I can just imagine Dell’s competitive sustainability director Tod Arbogast gritting his teeth over the EPA ranking.

So while Dell has already released its CSR report for fiscal year 2008, it posted an announcement today (yes, the same day as Intel’s CSR release) touting a report from Technology Business Research (TBR) that says Dell has taken the top position in its inaugural Corporate Sustainability Index Benchmark Report for 2009. The TBR report looks at 40 tech companies’ environmental initiatives including IBM, HP and…Intel. Intel ranks four slots under Dell at No. 5. Coincidental timing? Or has sustainability come between friends?