As OEMs step up their sustainability programmes, two leading players are arriving at key milestones. AMS reports on how biogas projects have contributed greatly to the renewable energy success of GM and BMWLast year, for the first time, the BMW Group met the majority of its electrical energy needs by using renewable sources – a significant step on the way to reaching its target of 100% green power. The vehicle-maker appears to be making rapid progress; by March this year, just 12 months later, the proportion of electrical power it took from renewable sources had risen from 51% to 58%.
“We have a clear objective and a concrete plan for the transition to renewable energy,” said Ursula Mathar, BMW Group’s head of Sustainability and Environmental Protection, on the release of its Sustainable Value Report last year. She warned, however, that “economic viability” and establishing “the right framework conditions” will be essential for the continuation of BMW’s step-by-step plan: to improve energy efficiency at its facilities worldwide; to install sources of renewable power; and to purchase green energy from third parties.
In 2015, BMW for the first time took over half its electrical power from renewable sources. By March 2016, the proportion had reached 58%
In its latest Sustainable Value Report, released in March this year, BMW claimed a reduction of 36% in energy use at its plants since 2006, with consumption per vehicle produced dropping by 2.7% to 2.19MWh in 2015 compared with the year before. Renewable power installations now include solar arrays, such as at Mini Oxford in the UK, wind turbines at Leipzig in Germany, hydropower at the joint venture SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers in Washington and biogas projects at both Spartanburg in South Carolina and Rosslyn in South Africa.
BMW stated in the report that its strategy is not to focus on any particular renewable source but to harness different technologies: “We decide at each location which concept makes the most sense in view of local conditions”. However, the OEM specified that one plan is to install photovoltaic systems at its German plants over the coming years.
GM shoots for the starsAlso in March, another leader in renewable energy, General Motors (GM), won a fifth Energy Star award from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for improving its energy efficiency. In 2015, the vehicle-maker reduced energy consumption per vehicle at its US factories by 5.6% to 1.9MWh. “We’re continually in pursuit of innovative technologies to reduce the environmental impact of driving, as well as practices that lessen the carbon footprint of manufacturing those vehicles,” commented Jim DeLuca, GM’s executive vice-president of Global Manufacturing.
When making its first serious commitments to renewable energy in 2011, GM set a goal of reaching 125MW of green power per year by 2020. Between 2013 and 2015 the OEM invested around $36m in onsite projects, and its portfolio now includes: solar arrays at 22 facilities, generating 48MW of power; solar charging canopies for electric vehicles (EVs) at nine locations; three landfill-gas installations; and one waste-to-energy project.
In 2016, GM will surpass its target of reaching 125MW of renewable energy – four years early
Upcoming wind programmes in Mexico and the US will provide GM with a further 34MW and 30MW per year respectively; at Arlington Assembly, Texas, this will mean the production of 125,000 SUVs per year using wind power. The OEM is also moving into the ownership of solar arrays rather than relying on purchase agreements and recently commissioned a 1MW project at Bowling Green, Kentucky. One mainstay of its renewable energy strategy from the very beginning, and still a strong contributor today, is biogas. Thanks to projects in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, the vehicle-maker is now one of the largest industrial users of landfill gas in the US.
GM now benefits from at least 105MW of green power supplying its facilities, and by March this year its decades-long exploration of renewable energy had not only helped to reduce its environmental footprint but to generate savings of $80m. According to Rob Threlkeld, GM’s global renewable energy manager, the two wind projects coming online later this year will take the OEM beyond its 125MW target.