May 26, 2021
The road to climate neutral manufacturing
It’s a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to reduce our carbon footprint: today, our car plant in Torslanda, Sweden has officially become fully climate neutral. Torslanda is the first of our car plants to reach this status and it’s the latest important step towards our ambition to have climate neutral manufacturing around the globe by 2025.
The woman in charge of the team coordinating that effort is Annika Fredgren. A chemical engineer by education, Annika’s been working on sustainability issues around our manufacturing operations for a long time. It’s a proud day.
“It’s a big step,” Annika says with a smile. “It does take quite a lot of effort to get to this point for our biggest plant. It was really good when we managed this with our engine factory in Skövde, Sweden a few years ago, but reaching this milestone with a car plant is a really big moment.”
Even though there are no externally established definitions, we regard a manufacturing plant as climate neutral when there’s no net increase in the emission of greenhouse gases due to the energy and heating used by the plant. That means our 2025 target hinges on the availability of CO2-neutral heating and electricity, which isn’t a given everywhere we operate.
“There’s an increasing availability of climate neutral electricity,” Annika explains, noting that this helped some of our Chinese plants to switch to zero-net-emission power. “But with heating, we may need technical solutions that are less easy to put in place. For example, in Torslanda we now switched to biogas for the remaining heating that wasn’t yet waste heating. That option is not available in China today, so there we need to find other solutions.”
450 Swedish villas
Targeted improvements to our Torslanda operations during 2020 resulted in annualised energy savings of almost 7,000 megawatt-hours (MWh). That’s the same amount of energy used every year by over 450 Swedish family villas. In coming years, we’re planning further efficiency upgrades to Torslanda which should save another 20,000 MWh by 2023.
Now the focus of Annika and her team switches to our other car plants.
“Quite a few of our plants already have climate neutral electricity, so we’re now looking into doing that everywhere,” Annika says.
After that the next big challenge is heating.
“Our challenges will mainly be around the availability of other energy sources and technical solutions for heating the paint shops. Waste heat is a big thing in Belgium and Sweden, but there’s still limited availability in other countries.”
Ah yes, waste heat. It’s something of a contentious source of heating because, as Annika points out, not all waste heat is climate neutral and definitions vary. But Annika says the focus is on moving forward.
“We make our evaluations and look into what we think is good. We could be challenged by others, but we need to take a position. I think that whatever we call it, the important thing is that we improve all the time by moving to better solutions and keep moving forward.”