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Volvo Goes Climate-Neutral
Joel Makower, 29 Sep 05

Talk about driven.

Volvo has just announced the world’s first CO2-free automotive plant -- its new Volvo Trucks plant in Tuve, Sweden. The company plans to maximize the plant’s efficiency and invest in wind power and biofuel to zero out the facility’s carbon footprint.

For all the talk about the challenges and hardships most companies claim about reducing their climate impacts even 5% or 10%, it astonishes me how many leadership companies are proving them wrong. It’s not surprising that Volvo, long a leader in environmental innovations, would be one of them.

This isn’t the first climate-neutral manufacturing plant. A solar module manufacturing facility in Freiburg, Germany claims to be CO2-neutral, and there may be one or two others. But this is the first on this scale.

Getting a manufacturing plant (or any other facility) to be climate-neutral requires engaging in two efforts: becoming as energy-efficient as possible, then powering the remaining energy needs using renewable energy. Volvo expects to reduce its energy needs by 20% -- itself a significant achievement -- and in cooperation with Göteborg Energi is currently building five large wind power plants and a new biofuel plant adjacent to the Tuve plant. (The five wind power plants alone will increase the amount of wind-power generated electricity in Sweden by 4%.) Energy not needed by the plant will be distributed to other nearby businesses. The wind power plants and the new biofuel plant are scheduled for completion during 2007.

"This is not solely an admirable environmental effort," said Leif Johansson, Volvo's CEO, in making the announcement. "We also expect that it will eventually be profitable on a purely commercial basis."

Volvo's says it wants to make more of its manufacturing plants CO2-free. According to forecasts from the Environmental Protection Agency, Sweden will achieve the goal of reducing its total emissions of carbon dioxide by 1% in 2010, compared with 1990 levels.

Of course, none of this will make Volvo’s cars any more efficient, though the company has made strives in that area, too. Hopefully, more to come on that, too.

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