Jorge Salas
Energy Management Manager
Volkswagen de México
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View from the Top

Thinking Blue to Act Green

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 13:09

Q: How will lower electricity prices for industrial users affect the competitiveness of Mexico’s auto industry?

A: Lower energy prices are a key factor in the industry’s long-term competitiveness. Investing in renewable energies is part of Volkswagen’s environmental responsibility strategy. This is also a market-driven decision now that renewable energies are much more cost competitive, which is essential to our company’s sustainability strategy. The importance of renewables continuously increases and technology improvements boost the viability of including them throughout the supply chain, without depending on state subsidies.

Q: How has Think Blue. Factory. impacted Volkswagen’s manufacturing facilities in Mexico?

A: Our Think Blue. Factory. strategy promotes positive actions for environmental protection, establishing an objective to reduce energy consumption 25 percent by 2018, compared to energy indicators in 2010. By September 2016, we had reached a 37 percent reduction, reflecting the significance Volkswagen attaches to this goal. We achieved reductions in consumption of electricity, natural gas, water and both CO2 and Volatile Organic Compound emissions. This is visible in our processes and awareness of the issue among our partners.

Think Blue. Factory. has definitive goals that must be finalized by 2018. In 2017, we will consolidate our efforts to ensure we achieve the desired results, with some planned measures that will optimize energy consumption. The strategy will continue in the future with even more ambitious goals, which we will achieve through the involvement of all our teams.

Q: What strategies are employed to reach the 25 percent reduction by 2018?

A: Our strategies involve every company division having Think Blue. Factory. ambassadors. They are trained specifically to implement organizational and technical energy-saving methods, such as modifying critical operations that consume large amounts of energy, optimizing processes and minimizing energy consumption during nonproductive days, namely weekends and public holidays.

We have also incorporated energy diagnoses that identify our greediest processes and act to reduce their energy consumption. The company also ensures the equipment for new processes operates with the latest, most efficient technology and retains the concept of optimization over the course of a project. This has led to excellent results for the company. Reducing the plant’s natural gas consumption will be the hardest challenge, since processes that require natural gas consume energy even during nonproductive days. We are looking for alternative local solutions that could improve our installations and supply the required thermal energy, as well as revising painting processes to optimize the setting-point in heat treatments and lowering factory temperatures.

Q: Volkswagen pioneered a PPA with a wind farm in Mexico. How has that helped its green initiatives?

A: One of the principle challenges presented by Think Blue. Factory is reducing CO2 emissions. This prompted us to search for alternatives to supply our plants with renewable energy. Although aspects of the project’s PPA had to be adapted, it is in the construction phase and we expect to start receiving energy by 2017. Given the new conditions set by the Energy Reform, we have definite interest in developing renewable energies. But this does not mean that Volkswagen will necessarily invest directly in projects because the company’s focus is automobile production.