Speaking at Environment + Energy Leader’s annual Solutions Summit, General Motors’ global energy manager, Al Hildreth, shared expertise and best practices related to addressing risk as we shift to a net-zero economy.
Some of the practical bits of advice from Hildreth focused on where companies can have the most impact in terms of their journey to net zero.
We asked Hildreth about his thoughts on the most important things a company can do to have an impact on their net-zero strategy. Here’s what he had to say:
Integrating energy, water and waste into the operational business plan is an important first step. “That gets everyone involved,” says Hildreth. “It’s not just, ‘We’re doing an energy efficiency project today, and next year we’ll do another.’ It’s a day-to-day thing. It’s how we run our business.”
Monitoring environmental impact should be a basic part of the business. At General Motors, “…[i]t’s monitored on a regular basis at the top level of the company to make sure we’re meeting our business plan, and if not, we have counter measures in place to say, ‘Okay, we may need more energy efficiency.’”
Start with energy management. “In our operations, emissions are a small part of our footprint, but they are controllable, and reductions provide cost savings. I’d say, start with energy management because it gives you cost savings and reduces carbon emissions.”
Water conservation is critical, as well. General Motors generally starts with a water balance analysis, which shows where water inputs and outputs are. Hildreth says they use meters, but sometimes he is a lot less high tech: “Sometimes, I take a bucket out and put a bucket under a pipe that’s leaking and measure it,” Hildreth says. Monitoring shows where he can find opportunities to reduce water use.
The paint shop is GM’s highest majority of water use, followed by cooling towers. “We look at every aspect of water use, prioritize it, then go after the savings,” he says. Other opportunities for savings include replacing shower heads and faucets with those that use less water.
In high-stressed areas, focus on resources risk. In the company’s Mexico plants, for example, there’s “just not enough water there,” Hildreth says. Conservation measures need to go further. “When we get into extreme risk, we go to ‘zero liquid discharge.’ We use water from our processes, clean it up, and reuse it.”
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