Opinion - 01/July/2019

Get going

Going carbon neutral is not easy for any company, but taking the decision to significantly reduce carbon emissions is the most difficult step, says Bjarne Sandager Nielsen, Vice President of Global Operations and Sourcing at LM Wind Power, now part of GE Renewable Energy

Capital investments in energy management systems, LED lighting and intelligent climate and ventilation controls show paybacks within one year and represent over $2.6 million in avoided costs

 

LM Wind Power is one of the largest designers and manufacturers of rotor blades for wind turbines with customers all over the globe and 15 factories in eight countries. We began our sustainability journey in 2010 by signing the UN Global Compact, but moving from that starting point to becoming today’s carbon neutral business was a long and winding road.

When we announced in July 2018 that we had finally reached carbon neutrality, we realised we could have reached this point more quickly if we had had a simple route map to follow. Since then, we have done all we can to share everything we have learned and have published our approach in ten easy-to-follow steps.

We are carbon neutral today and we achieved this by securing sufficient savings in our energy use to fully fund the necessary renewable energy certificates and carbon credits needed to offset our remaining emissions from other aspects of business operations, including inbound logistics, employee commuting and flying.

 

 

Guiding principles

One guiding principle is that we truly believe that a greener business is a leaner business and will, as a result, become more resilient and ultimately, more profitable.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, each company is different, with its own challenges and barriers to success. Manufacturers have different characteristics than services or online businesses, for example. But in our case, we made it clear from the outset that we wanted to find ways to save money, to reduce our energy bills and to transition to a point where we use only renewable energy at every plant and facility.

In short, our sustainability programme is about business improvement. This approach is better received in the boardroom and on the shop floor than statements about saving the planet, but it serves the same goal. And other benefits accrue from here in the form of improved customer relationships, employee engagement and brand awareness.

 

Switching to green energy

Two of our 15 manufacturing locations are already fully powered by renewables and in early 2018 we signed our first solar Power Purchase Agreement at one of our plants in India.

Installing a wind turbine to service our needs remains a central ambition of the project, but has so far proved more difficult that we thought. This is because not all our plants and facilities are in optimal wind locations and there are challenges with permitting and management of the electricity supply with local grids. Nonetheless we are doggedly pursuing this outcome because we are keen to see a facility powered by one of our very own rotors.

In addition, we are now deeply engaged in procuring electricity through various Power Purchase Agreements. These will enable us to source 100% renewable energy in each market where we operate. There are different structures and approaches to this model in different countries, but our aim is to complete the transition to 100% renewable energy by 2020. As renewable energy is becoming cheaper everywhere, the economics and flexibility of supply arrangements are improving all the time, and so we believe this can be fully achieved.

 

Data is king

There is no way to build a business case for carbon neutrality without procuring accurate data on energy use and emission sources. We began reporting on both in 2010, applying the Global Reporting Initiative’s standards. Data drives improvements and savings. Based on a high-level analysis of our energy consumption in each plant, we decided to prioritise three initiatives to roll out globally, focusing on those areas where energy use can be optimised and emissions reduced:

  1. Energy management systems in all plants
  2. Change to LED lighting
  3. Intelligent climate and ventilation controls

Our capital investments in the above show payback within one year and represent over $2.6 million in avoided costs. Through these efforts we have fully funded the necessary renewable energy certificates and carbon credits needed to offset our remaining emissions.

The operations side of our business has led the change and delivered the initial savings, but we can already see further opportunities arising from the focus which the reporting brings specifically in transport and logistics and employee commuting. We are hungry to reduce our costs wherever we can and in so doing, make wind energy more competitive.

 

The biggest lesson?

Perhaps for me the biggest lesson of all arising from the sustainability programme is that you must start.

There is no doubt that our sustainability goals have focused the business and strengthened our cost saving initiatives with a sense of purpose. Do not underestimate the power of purpose.

Together with my colleagues, we are extremely proud of what we have achieved and have fuelled a relentless appetite to improve further: to run a cleaner and greener business and, with GE and our many global customers, to make wind energy the most compelling and cost-effective form of renewable energy.

 


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