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Mar 14, 2022

On the path to net-zero: Energy savings in own operations and our way forward

Felipe Antunes
Felipe Antunes
Director, Environment
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges to sustaining our way of life and in the focus of our sustainability strategy - we aim for net-zero CO2 emissions in our own operations by 2030. In 2021, we decreased CO2 emissions in our own operations by 58%, compared to the 2019 baseline. This represents approximately 70 kilotons of CO2 savings. We implemented close to 90 environmental projects that created savings of CO2, energy, water and waste, and in addition, approximately 100 new initiatives are already planned for the coming years.

A collective effort with energy savings yielded good results

One important way to drive emission reductions is the implementation of energy saving actions in our own operations. We also buy renewable energy certificates (RECs) that demonstrate that our purchased electricity has been produced with renewable energy sources. Around 85% of the electricity consumption of our biggest locations come from renewable sources, which represents more than 90% of their total electricity consumption.

Our Lappeenranta manufacturing site started to purchase renewable district heat in 2021, which will help us reduce our CO2 footprint by more than 250 tCO2 annually. At our Pori site, switching to green energy means that we can now reduce 450 tCO2 annually, representing an 80% decrease in the local CO2. However, the energy saving actions in our own operations become even more critical when companies around the globe set more robust emission targets and the price for RECs is likely to go up substantially. We aim for net-zero by 2030 and as we expect our production volumes to grow, it is critical that we find more ways to cut our own emissions with internal actions.

And that’s exactly what we are doing: Our sites have been actively finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint and increase energy efficiency. For example, at our Tianjin, Suzhou, Alwar and Sorocaba sites the old lights were replaced by new types of LED illumination. This resulted in less maintenance cost and electricity consumption. At the Alwar factory, we converted the diesel boiler to LPG, at Prerov foundry we invested in a new system for pre-heating of ladles, reducing our natural gas consumption by approximately 300K m3 per year. At the Quzhou foundry, we built a new cooling pool. In addition, we have started replacing fossil fuel-driven forklifts with electric-driven in our aggregates factories. This saves fuel and improves air quality.

How we feed our energy savings and CO2 reductions pipeline

It is important that our energy saving actions do not happen in silos. If we implement a savings initiative at one site, other locations can take advantage of these good practices. One example is our actions around compressed air, where we have already several initiatives ongoing to eliminate air leakages and improve the monitoring systems. In the fall of 2021, to further feed the energy saving actions pipeline, we organized several workshops where we discussed potential initiatives from different perspectives.

These workshops resulted in close to 200 ideas on how we can generate energy savings to reduce CO2 emissions in our own operations. In the next phase, we prioritized the actions depending on their impact on CO2 emission reduction and defined both short and long-term actions. Some of the actions were already initiated during the last months of 2021. These were for example converting all lighting to LED, leading an air compressor campaign to detect leakages, optimizing air conditioning and heating and studying the possibility to install more solar panels at our sites. With the expansion of our own solar systems, we can raise the amount of green electricity generated internally and reduce our dependency on external suppliers.

Using green energy sources, we can gradually replace the use of fossil fuels and significantly reduce our emissions. Nowadays the heating processes, such as heat treatment furnaces, boilers, and drying cabins, are the main consumers of fossil fuels in our manufacturing sites and all these processes are under review to convert to lower carbon energy sources. In addition, it is vitally important to replace the technologies that use fossil fuels such as natural gas, LPG, diesel, and oil, with technologies that use electricity as their main energy source.

Developing our environmental efficiency is a continuous process

One longer-term action point is switching our heating systems (e.g. paint booths) from using fossil fuels to electricity. We initiated a study around the topic, and our newest facility in Alwar will now invest in a fully electric paint booth. In our foundries, we must find alternatives for natural gas and LPG, and depending on the foundries’ location and production groups, we need to assess if installing electric furnaces is feasible. Another important aspect is to investigate the opportunity to either purchase biogas directly from the grid or acquire green gas certificates if available. The market for biogas and green gas certificates is evolving and currently, there are renewable gas schemes available in Europe and North America.

It is critical that we continuously keep generating new ideas and by these means contribute to decreasing our CO2 footprint. By increasing the eco-efficiency of our production, we can reduce our overall environmental footprint and achieve cost savings. Some ideas require management approval or investing time into a study, but many are simple, concrete actions that can be taken immediately.

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