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GM Sets Energy, Carbon, Water Goals in First Report as New Firm

The General Motors Company has committed to reduce its facilities’ energy intensity and carbon intensity by 20 percent, and water intensity by 15 percent, all by 2020, according to its first sustainability report since re-organizing in 2009.

The company also committed to 2020 goals of:

  • Reducing facilities’ waste by 10 percent
  • Cutting volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from assembly painting operations, in kg per vehicle, by 10 percent
  • Promoting the use of 125 MW of renewable power
  • Promoting existing landfill-free facilities while working to achieve 100 landfill-free manufacturing sites and 25 non-manufacturing sites.
  • Promoting and engaging in community outreach on environmental and energy issues by completing one outreach activity per plant on an annual basis.
  • Securing Wildlife Habitat Certification (or equivalent) at each GM manufacturing site where feasible.

The company – which rose from the ashes of the General Motors Corporation through a 2009 government bailout – said all targeted reductions are based on a 2010 baseline.

The report showed reductions on most metrics from 2005 to 2010. In that time, energy intensity fell from 3.56 to 2.59 MWh per vehicle manufactured – and saw an even steeper drop from its 2000 level of 5.12. Carbon intensity fell from 1.69 metric tons CO2e per vehicle manufactured in 2000, to 1.34 in 2005 and 0.93 in 2010.

GE said it achieved this progress through a combination of best practices and capital investment, including automated shutdown of equipment when not in use, installation of energy-efficient lighting, consumption tracking and analysis through its energy management systems, and upgrades to heating and cooling systems.

In 2010, it says, automated idle equipment shutdowns alone at 10 plants resulted in savings of $3 million. The installation of efficient lights, variable-speed drives on motors, improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and controls realized $4.4 million in annual savings at its Tonawanda, New York, plant, and a $400,000 heat-recovery project at its Gliwice, Poland paint shop is set to yield $900,000 in annual energy savings.

Meanwhile, GM says, workshops to help European manufacturing workers identify areas of energy waste resulted in project implementations saving $1.4 million in 2010, and could eventually result in savings of up to $4.2 million. And a new compressed-air machine yielded $750,000 annual savings at Kaiserslautern, Germany.

In 2011, GM met the EPA’s Energy Star Challenge for industry by cutting energy intensity at 30 North American plants by an average of 25 percent, avoiding more than 778,830 metric tons of GHGs, and saved $50 million in energy costs along the way. These 30 plants represent nearly a third of all industrial sites that have met the challenge

GM’s renewable power use rose from 5 MW in 2000, to 43 MW in 2005 and 55 MW in 2010, with renewable energy sources now representing about two percent of its energy use. The company uses landfill gas installations at four U.S. facilities, which it says saved more than $5 million in 2010, and enough energy to heat more than 25,000 households.

A solar array at the Rancho Cucamonga Service Parts Distribution Center in California supplies about 50 percent of the center’s electricity, and the company also has a one MW solar array at its distribution center in Fontana, Calif. The company says its solar installation at its car assembly plant in Zaragoza, Spain is the world’s largest rooftop solar array, at 12 MW.

GM is planning a 1.23 MW rooftop solar array for its Baltimore electric motor plant, which the company says will be the first U.S. automotive plant dedicated to making critical components for vehicle electrification. It is scheduled to open in 2013. Six more solar canopies are under construction at GM plants.

Water intensity fell dramatically from 8.85 cubic meters per vehicle in 2000 to 5.58 in 2005, and then again to 4.70 in 2010. The company says it has deployed new processes on a global basis to conserve paint shop pretreatment water to the tune of 8,750 megaliters annually.

A lagoon for treated water at its Ramos Arizpe, Mexico plant has reduced well water use by 70 percent, while a zero-wastewater discharge design at its San Luis Potosí, Mexico, assembly plant has saved 20 million gallons a year. Four U.S. casting facilities have used wastewater treatment, stormwater collection and water-filtering processes to avoid withdrawing a combined 4,180 megaliters of water from municipal water systems.

In Australia, GM’s Holden Vehicle Operations is installing a water recycling plant in the general assembly plant car wash, a water re-use process in a new paint pretreatment facility and recirculation of humidified booth air in the bumper paint shop. These actions, combined with other measures, are expected to reduce municipal water usage by 190 megaliters per year, GM says.

GM’s number of landfill-free facilities rose from 0 in 2000 and 1 in 2005 to 76 in 2010, and in that year its facilities recycled 92 percent of the waste they generated. In November GM announced its Fort Wayne Assembly Plant had become its first U.S. factory to reach zero waste-to-landfill status.

Total waste from facilities was 304 kg per vehicle manufactured in 2010. The report said figures for 2000 and 2005 were unavailable.

Some of GM’s recent initiatives have focused on repurposing used materials as vehicle components. The company has recycled 212,500 pounds of oil-soaked booms from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, more than double the 100,000 originally projected, and more than enough to make a production year’s worth of air-deflecting baffles.

In addition, GM cardboard shipping and post-industrial materials are used for sound-absorption materials in Buick LaCrosse and Verano headliners. In this application, 85 percent of the headliner by weight is from recycled material — 25 percent cardboard and 60 percent post-industrial. Plastic caps and shipping aids from its Fort Wayne Assembly Operation are converted into 25 percent (by weight) of the radiator shrouds for Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks, and shredded tires from its Milford vehicle performance test operations become 25 percent of air and watter baffles in the 2010 Chevy Volt.

The report said that GM’s VOC emissions fell from 4.67 in 2005 to 3.71 in 2010.

In 2010 GM earned more clean tech patents than any other company, according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index, with patents secured for its work on fuel cells, hybrid  electric vehicles, solar energy and  advanced technology improvements.  The company says its agenda for business growth aligns with the needs of the society – namely, technologies to reduce petroleum use, improve efficiency and reduce emissions, and responses to the pressures of population growth and urbanization.

GM says it will release another report later this year to share metrics for 2011.

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