Marco Antonio Ribera
Senior Corporate Manager Environment and Safety
Nissan Mexicana
View from the Top

Automotive Player Embraces Renewables

Wed, 02/24/2016 - 15:47

Q: What role does the global automotive industry play in pushing forth green practices?

A: The automotive industry involves the use of raw materials, transformation processes, and the use of the vehicle until the moment it is scrapped. When you consider the entire life cycle of a vehicle, you see the important impact it has on the environment. All OEMs today incorporate themes of sustainability in manufacturing processes because not doing so has a negative impact on the environment. Within our Nissan Power 88 business plan there are several pillars of growth, one of which is Zero Emissions Leadership, a major component of the company’s DNA and vision. This pillar includes the Nissan Green Program, which allows us to incorporate green practices in the life cycle of our vehicles. The life cycle of a car begins the moment it is designed, and lasts until its disposal, and throughout every stage we have specific plans of action with key targets. Nissan Mexicana has stood out in reducing the carbon footprint and raw materials used in manufacturing processes. This is remarkable, considering the manufacturing capacity of Nissan Mexicana and the fact that in 2014 it assembled more than 800,000 vehicles, of which almost 70% were exported.

Q: How has the incorporation of renewable technologies increased Nissan Mexicana’s competitiveness?

A: We have been able to balance Nissan’s Green Program with energy consumption. As a result, we are the leaders in economized energy consumption for every vehicle assembled and we are even more competitive than our plants in Japan. A significant percentage of the energy we consume comes from renewable sources. In the case of Aguascalientes’ A1 Plant, Nissan’s biggest manufacturing complex in Mexico, around 66% of the electricity consumed comes from renewable energy and the rest from combined cycle plants using clean fuels like natural gas. Within the 58 plants of the Renault-Nissan Alliance worldwide, Nissan Mexicana is the only one that incorporates biogas generated from a landfill. The waste-to-energy project falls under the self-supply scheme, and the three parties involved are the city council that manages the landfill and is certified to ISO 14000, a UK developer called ENER-G, with the technology and experience, and Nissan, which acted as the off-taker and provided the financial support for the project.

Q: What are the rising concerns of Nissan Mexicana as an AAA off-taker considering the upheaval in the energy market?

A: We began to seek energy alternatives besides the electricity provided by CFE in 2007. In 2012 we introduced the first renewable energy that covered 5% of the needs of Aguascalientes’ A1 Plant, and in 2013, a great volume of energy was incorporated into the mix from the wind project located in Oaxaca. One of the factors we take seriously regarding renewable energies is the intermittency. When we compare renewables with other clean, traditional sources of energy, we realize that natural gas is rising in popularity and it is becoming incredibly competitive. There are many elements to consider when studying a project, such as intermittency, cost, location, and contract terms. Long-term contracts make Nissan Mexicana more competitive, however, given that the automotive industry is known to fluctuate, we has to consider that sometimes the energy that was purchased might not be consumed in the future. We are attentive to the promotion of the great potential of renewable energies by the authorities and the rising competition faced by the industry’s emerging players. Nissan Mexicana has had a positive experience with biogas, since this fuel does not suffer from intermittency, which makes it a very attractive energy source when compared to other traditional forms of energy.

Q: What steps did Nissan Mexicana take in order to align its manufacturing processes with sustainability practices?

A: Nissan Mexicana is the global benchmark in water and waste management strategies. The plants in Mexico take the lead by assembling vehicles using less water, although this depends on the production volume. For instance, Aguascalientes’ A1 Plant uses 1m3 of water per vehicle assembled, while Aguascalientes’ A2 Plant uses 1.4m3, and the CIVAC plant uses 1.5m3. In order to achieve sustainability, there must be a balance between green practices and economics, so as less waste is generated and resources are better managed, costs are immediately lowered and competitiveness increased. It is through the implementation of water and waste management strategies and renewable energies that Nissan has been able to increase its competitiveness and stand out from the crowd.