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Operational Emissions

Reducing carbon emissions

The scale of our operations also presents significant opportunities for improvement. This has been an area of continued focus over the past decade, during which we have accomplished much.

GM was proud to reach our manufacturing carbon intensity goal—a 20% reduction in metric tons of CO2e per vehicle manufactured between 2010 and 2020—three years ahead of schedule. Energy efficiency improvements and our RE100 pledge—a commitment to use 100% renewable energy in our operations—helped us reach our initial carbon goal.

After achieving this goal in 2017, we developed an even more ambitious target: to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG (CO2e) emissions by 31% by 2030 compared to a 2010 baseline, and to become carbon-neutral in our operations by 2040. This goal is consistent with the level of decarbonization required by the Science-Based Target initiative methodology to limit warming to less than 2°C compared to preindustrial temperatures by 2050.

We are committed to meeting our two bold goals of carbon neutral in products and operations by 2040 and eliminating tailpipe emissions in new light-duty vehicles by 2035. We recognize we cannot achieve these bold goals alone, and other outside factors may result in remaining carbon emissions. We will assess this, and invest in carbon credits or offsets to achieve carbon neutrality in the coming years. We recognize that offsets must be used sparingly and should reflect a holistic view of mitigating the effects of climate change and helping people thrive around the world.

Operational Commitments

Reduce Energy Intensity by 20%
(MWh/vehicle)

Note: Draft data is used to show progress to goal and will be replaced with final data after third-party verification. Although GM reduced absolute energy by 22% in 2020 compared to 2010, on an intensity basis the reduction was only 11% due to large vehicle production volume reductions from a work stoppage in 2019 and pandemic in 2020. Since 2018, our global volume in 2020 was reduced by 28%. Since our operations have a fixed energy component, even with extreme shutdown efforts our intensity targets were not met, as the relationship of energy to volume is not 1:1.

Absolute Reduction of Carbon by 31%
(GHG, Scope 1&2 Market Based, million metric tons)

Energy Conservation

By reducing energy use overall, there will be fewer electricity needs to be covered by renewable sources or offsets. To do this, GM uses an energy management system (EMS) to achieve energy-reduction goals. In 2020, 25 GM U.S. manufacturing facilities, or more than 90% of our U.S. manufacturing footprint, implemented the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 50001 Ready program. This program is an application tool through which 25 tasks are measured to demonstrate an effective EMS. Upon completion, facilities can self-attest to the structure of ISO 5001, a voluntary global standard. GM engaged with DOE to train the GM Energy team, along with suppliers and other companies on the 50001 Ready process. GM has implemented 50001 Ready at more facilities than any other participating company. We plan to expand this program to all of our manufacturing facilities globally in order to continuously monitor and improve our EMS.

Performance contracts are another important avenue for us to meet our operational emissions goals. These contracts, in place at a number of facilities, allow us to use third-party investments to make energy-efficiency upgrades, which we then repay with the associated near-term cost savings. For example, a new contract at our Fort Wayne assembly facility invests in eliminating steam and making more efficient use of waste heat.

GM also uses a variety of Energy Star initiatives as a framework for charting our progress in building energy efficiency. Energy Star’s Building Portfolio Manager (BPM) allows us to benchmark our progress and make continuous improvements. BPM integrates with our utility bill management system, sending an automated monthly analysis of building scores to evaluate building performance. In 2020, GM had five buildings—including Lansing Delta Township Assembly in Michigan and CAMI Assembly in Canada—certified by Energy Star for superior energy management. Similar to laptops and refrigerators, these certifications provide a benchmark system for energy efficiency. Energy Star® Challenge for Industry is another continuous improvement recognition, which six GM plants have earned.

Another tool used is Energy OnStar (unrelated to GM’s OnStar solution), a continuous commissioning system that monitors the performance of our HVAC equipment in real time. About a third of our operational energy use goes to heating or cooling, so keeping close tabs on these systems is critical. The system allows us to quickly identify when a unit is malfunctioning and easily find opportunities for improvement. Virtual monitoring proved especially useful in 2020, when manufacturing facilities closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and workers could not see units in person.

GM uses Energy Star’s “treasure hunt” approach to uncover quick ways to save energy. Since the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel, we developed a virtual energy treasure hunt process to continue to evaluate savings opportunities. Energy OnStar provided remote site hourly energy, production, ventilation and Powerhouse data that is used to identify opportunities. Through this virtual process, we conducted 11 treasure hunts covering 11 million square feet of space, and uncovered 192 opportunities that could potentially save the company $5 million. These included hunts at SGM's Cadillac plant and SAIC-GMWuling’s Baojun plant, which identified 30 projects that could save approximately $1.2 million. Energy Star recognized GM’s virtual treasure hunt process as one of its Top Energy Projects at the 2020 Energy Star Industrial meeting.

Promoting Energy Efficiency in China

GM’s facilities in China have reduced their energy use in a number of creative ways, from finding new solutions within their own walls to participating in global energy challenges.

At the Baojun site in Liuzhou, a cascading energy storage power station has been developed that uses retired EV batteries to store wind and solar energy as well as energy from the grid generated during non-peak hours. This energy can then be used to relieve pressure on the grid during peak hours of consumption.

The SAIC-GM Dong Yue Motors North Plant in Yantai, Shandong, met the Energy Star® Challenge for Industry by reducing its energy intensity by 10.5% between 2017 and 2019. In fact, the plant exceeded Energy Star’s call to action, which encouraged facilities to reduce energy intensity by 10% within five years. GM China’s joint venture facilities have been recognized by Energy Star 23 times since 2009.

Reduce Energy Intensity by 20%
(MWh/vehicle)
2010 Baseline 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
2.31 2.00 1.96 2.03 2.13 2.06
Absolute Reduction of Carbon by 31%
(GHG, Scope 1&2 Market Based, million metric tons)
2010 Baseline 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
6.2 7.0 6.7 5.7 5.1 3.8