Decarbonising the wind industry’s own supply chain may seem an obvious step. Many might expect this to have happened already; certainly, there are attempts being made. The industry is of course driven by ‘greening’ the electricity supply and there are visible joint initiatives like the widely regarded RE100.
Most industry players have emission reduction targets and even pledges to go carbon neutral in the future. But there’s a strong business case to do even more – and doing so now.
LM Wind Power declared carbon neutrality in July this year. Here’s why. Climate action starts with an appeal to act responsibly towards the planet, and rightly so. With the signing of the Paris Agreement and the launch of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, countries, businesses and individuals are being called upon to take urgent climate action. And indeed it is urgent, as we know from the UNFCCC latest report, released last month, which further stressed that only drastic and immediate action can limit the most devastating impact of climate change.
As an industry that shares an ambition to power a cleaner world, we should run our own businesses in line with what we are trying to achieve globally.
LM Wind Power was the first company in the wind industry to declare carbon neutrality. Our pledge was partly motivated by a belief that we should clean up our business and work even faster towards a greener future. However, our business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. To make our industry ambition a reality, we must become even more cost-competitive with other forms of energy generation.
One of the ways to address that cost challenge is to constantly optimise how we operate. Having a pledge to go carbon neutral compelled us to look at our operations from a different perspective and scrutinise our activities in an unprecedented way. We identified 12% savings on our global energy bill, amounting to around $3m a year, by implementing measures that reduce our energy consumption.
Our carbon neutrality programme turned out to be cost neutral from its first year.
Going green on the electricity supply also proved to be commercially attractive. As an example: sourcing our electricity from a solar Power Purchase Agreement for one of our Indian plants has so far saved $177k in just five months. Our carbon neutrality programme turned out to be cost neutral from its first year, all while reducing our carbon footprint to net zero.
While the financial picture is attractive, there is a basic relationship between carbon neutrality and the wind industry that makes the business case even more compelling. Sourcing 100% renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions is part of almost any carbon neutrality pledge, as is carbon offsetting to compensate for unavoidable emissions.
Carbon credits as a mechanism are not clearly understood. The sale of carbon credits creates a stable revenue stream that makes many wind projects economically viable. When we as an industry show that carbon neutrality makes sense not only from an environmental but also business perspective, we can inspire more companies to start cutting their emissions and sourcing renewables. In doing so, we are growing the wind energy market ourselves.
Going carbon neutral is no longer the right thing to do for the planet alone; it’s the right thing to do for the whole wind industry. The cost savings and the opportunity to drive the renewables market are there – for real. We did it. And if we can do it, so can others. There is no better time for the wind industry to go carbon neutral.
Lene Mi Ran Kristiansen is LM Wind Power’s global senior manager in charge of communications & sustainability