Automaker still has a long way to go, but it’s already made significant strides

General Motors has pledged to use electricity produced entirely from renewable energy sources by 2050. The announcement comes in response to growing calls to become more sensitive to state of the environment. As part of its commitment to reaching its goal, GM also signed up to join the RE100, a collaborative, global initiative of influential businesses that are committed to using 100 percent renewable electricity, working to increase the demand for renewable energy. Included in the organization are some heavy-hitters from other business sectors, including Coca-Cola, Google, Bloomberg, Nike, and a familiar face in the auto industry, BMW.

A big part of General Motors’ plan is to completely use renewable energy, including wind, sun, and landfill gas, in powering its 350 operations in 59 countries all over the world. Considering that the automaker’s timetable is still 34 years from now, it’s hard to imagine what the auto industry is going to look like, let alone what the regulations are going to be in that time. If anything, GM is giving itself plenty of time to make the transition, although with the years it still has to reach that goal, there’s no telling what the automaker is transitioning itself into.

To be fair, the automaker has made some positive gains in getting to its goal. A GM PR representative recently told Autoblog that 3.8 percent of the automaker’s electricity will come from renewable energy. That already includes saving around $5 million a year from using renewable energy as part of a previous goal to promote the use of 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020. The automaker’s two new wind projects, which are expected to open later this year, would also help accomplish that 2020 goal as they are being prepared to help power four of the automaker’s manufacturing operations.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

Give credit where it’s due

It’s admirable to see General Motors take this step, especially when you consider how much the auto industry relies on electricity in the production of the vehicles and the powering of its offices, tech centers, warehouses, and dealerships. Being able to completely use renewable energy to power all of those things is a huge benefit to the environment.

It’s also worth noting that GM’s commitment isn’t just a long term one. On the short term, the company is already making significant steps in achieving its 2020 and 2050 goals. Take a look at what it’s doing to its facilities in China for example. The Jinquai Cadillac production facility, for example, is on pace to use 10 megawatts of rooftop solar power and 20 megawatts of solar carports. The latter will cover 8,100 parking spaces in the company’s own vehicle distribution center parking lot in Wuhan, China.

Look at the automaker’s past and you’ll also notice a trend that points to the GM’s commitment to using renewable energy. The automaker has saved $80 million because of its pioneer status and today, it has 22 facilities with solar arrays, three sites that use landfill gas, and four facilities that will soon be powered by wind energy.

It’s easy to see the 2050 goal and scoff at how long that it is and how far GM still has to go to meeting that goal. Personally, I think it’s unfair to look at that and not recognize what the automaker has already done. It may still have a long way to go, but based on the company’s history, it’s not like the automaker is sitting idle as the rest of the industry, or other industries for that matter, passes it by.

Press Release

Photo Courtesy of General Motors

DETROIT – General Motors plans to generate or source all electrical power for its 350 operations in 59 countries with 100 percent renewable energy — such as wind, sun and landfill gas — by 2050.

“Establishing a 100 percent renewable energy goal helps us better serve society by reducing environmental impact,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “This pursuit of renewable energy benefits our customers and communities through cleaner air while strengthening our business through lower and more stable energy costs.”

This new renewable energy goal, along with the pursuit of electrified vehicles and efficient manufacturing, is part of the company’s overall approach to strengthening its business, improving communities and addressing climate change. GM is also joining RE100, a global collaborative initiative of businesses committed to 100 percent renewable electricity, working to increase demand for clean power.

In 2015, GM required 9 terawatt hours of electricity to build its vehicles and power its offices, technical centers and warehouses around the world. To meet its new renewable energy goal, GM will continue to improve the energy efficiency of its operations while transitioning to clean sources for its power needs.

Today GM saves $5 million annually from using renewable energy, a number it anticipates will increase as more projects come online and the supply of renewable energy increases. In addition, the company anticipates costs to install and produce renewable energy will continue to decrease, resulting in more bottom-line returns.

The new renewable energy commitment builds on GM’s previous goal to promote the use of 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020. The company expects to exceed this when two new wind projects come online later this year to help power four manufacturing operations.

“This bold and ambitious commitment from General Motors will undoubtedly catch the attention of the global automotive industry,” said Amy Davidsen, North America executive director at The Climate Group. “GM has already saved millions of dollars by using renewable energy, and like any smart business that recognizes an investment opportunity, they want to seize it fully. We hope that through this leadership, other heavy manufacturing companies will be inspired to make the switch too.”

Scaling the commitment

GM is in the process of adding 30 megawatts of solar arrays at two facilities in China. Its Jinqiao Cadillac assembly plant in Shanghai will feature 10 megawatts of rooftop solar and 20 megawatts of solar carports, which will cover 8,100 parking spaces at the company’s vehicle distribution center parking lot in Wuhan.

GM has pioneered the use of renewable energy for more than 20 years, saving $80 million to date. The company has 22 facilities with solar arrays, three sites using landfill gas and four that will soon benefit from wind. This experience will help GM scale renewable energy use to all facilities globally.

GM is in a unique position to meet this renewable energy goal given its electric vehicle battery expertise. Energy storage can ultimately address the intermittency or reliability of wind and solar energy. GM is now using Chevrolet Volt batteries for energy storage at its Milford Proving Ground data center office.

Collaborating to make renewable energy more accessible

GM joins 69 companies that have made the RE100 pledge. As a founding member of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance and Business Renewables Center, and one of the first signatories of the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, GM helps scale the availability and adoption of renewable energy. These organizations, spearheaded by the Rocky Mountain Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and the World Resources Institute, work to identify barriers to buying clean energy and develop solutions to meet the growing demand.

GM will continue to work with cities, policymakers, renewable energy developers, utilities, NGOs and other stakeholders on the transition to a clean-energy economy.

For more information on GM’s environmental commitment, visit its sustainability report and environmental blog.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.

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