BMW pledges to 100% renewable power by 2020, at COP23

Car manufacturing giant BMW also announced it would drop coal use. The company will shift all of its external power purchases to renewable sources by the end of this decade, head of procurement Markus Duesmann revealed in a speech at COP23 in Bonn.


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Recent calls at COP23 for governments to shift away from coal-power may have borne fruit in unexpected places. Today, Munich-based corporate giant BMW has revealed plans to shift its external energy purchases away from coal by 2020 and buy from green sources.

Bonn-a-fide shift

The partnership between the UN Climate Change Conferences and BMW dates back to 1992. After participating in previous Conferences of the Parties (COPs) in Lima, Paris, and Marrakesh, the BMW Group will once again take on an active part at COP 23.

Green energy currently made up 63% of the manufacturer’s needs in 2016, Duesmann explained in Bonn today, but the company wants to make it 100%. It’s an ambitious plan for a corporation of this size and scope, especially one that deals in heavy manufacturing. The company is already drawing on a variety of renewable sources, he added, mentioning the wind turbines powering BMW’s plant in Leipzig, Germany and the Spartanburg operation in South Carolina that draws methane from a local landfill.

“We strongly believe that, together with governments, other companies and representatives of the society, we can have a positive impact in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Ursula Mathar, the BMW Group’s VP of sustainability and environmental protection.

“Discussing the SDGs with various stakeholders at the Sustainable Innovation Forum is one of our top priorities.”

Overall, BMW will need to find suppliers of renewable energy to satisfy its roughly 1 terawatt per year consumption, Duesmann added, spread along 31 sites in 14 countries. In effect, the conglomerate will have to find and secure an extra 220,000 homes-worth of renewable electricity to go completely green energy-wise.

To that end, BMW will look into all sources of renewable power, no matter how unusual. For example, they’re treating with a South African biomass plant that runs on cow manure and chicken droppings. BMW will seek to sign more supply deals with solar energy providers according to Jury Witschnig, the company’s head of sustainability strategy. These agreements will go as far as BMW working with solar companies to build energy systems in company sites or becoming a cornerstone customer with long-term offtake agreements for future projects, he said.

BMW’s energy switch comes as part of a larger, billion-dollar move towards greater sustainability, an effort spearheaded by electric vehicles. Despite great confidence from government and private initiatives, especially in Europe, the payoffs from EVs are still uncertain. Confidence in their economic success is further impacted by criticisms that fossil-sourced energy and the raw materials required in their construction offset EVs’ environmental benefits. Along with the huge investments this shift requires, BMW is feeling the heat — the company’s shares have dropped 3.7% this year.

Hopefully, their investment pays off in the end. Especially given the huge confidence Europe’s governments and the public have shown for EVs.

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