The many virtues of switching to renewables
Solvay is proud to participate in Apple’s Supplier Clean Energy Program
When Apple started asking suppliers to power themselves with renewable energy, Solvay’s own sustainability objectives were completely aligned with such a request. Better: its green electricity projects were accelerated by it.
In October 2015, Apple initiated its Supplier Clean Energy Program, requesting its suppliers to make all necessary arrangements to power their Apple production with renewable power. Solvay was among these. “They asked us what we were doing to source renewable power for the manufacturing of the products we provide to them,” says Alain Michel, Solvay’s Head of Climate & Energy Transition. “So we entered negotiations, and eventually signed an agreement stating that by the end of 2018, the materials we sell them would be produced with 100% renewable power.”
Reinforcing a renewable energy strategy
This was, of course, easier said than done, as a total of ten different factories in six countries were concerned by the project. This means that appropriate solutions (detailed below) needed to be found in very different markets, each with their own context and regulations, as well as different states of development of local renewable energy offers.
Solvay’s Sustainable Development and Energy team (SDE) was in charge of implementing the agreement. “Such a concrete and direct request from one of Solvay’s major customers was a first for us,” continues Alain, “but the timing was perfect, as we were developing our strategy to source more renewables. The agreement also helped us convince internal stakeholders within Solvay.”
“We were quick to accept this request because it integrated perfectly with our own objectives in terms of renewable energy,” adds Sébastien Pétillon, Specialty Polymers’ North America Sales Manager. “Ultimately, the agreement enabled us to gain access to more renewable energy.” What’s more, making these efforts also aligned beautifully with Solvay’s sustainability commitments in other fields such as water withdrawals or the circular economy, for example. So it was a clear win-win.
We’ve been wanting for a long time to demonstrate that there is value in implementing sustainability projects: the value we gained here is a deeper relationship with a major customer.
A deeper collaboration
It also served to demonstrate that switching to renewables is not only the right thing to do environmentally speaking, but could also be a viable operation – both in terms of cost, as the price of clean energy has sharply decreased in recent years, and in terms of reinforcing a partnership with a strategic customer. “We have been wanting for a long time to demonstrate that there is value in implementing sustainability projects”, continues Alain. “The value we gained here is a deeper relationship with a major customer.”
Paving the way to sustainability
A variety of renewable energy solutions in order to provide Apple with materials made with 100% green power, and with sufficient flexibility to be able to adapt to future demand: self-production and investing in green power projects in priority, and, when those solutions weren’t possible, purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
Another aspect of this agreement is the ‘ripple in the pond’ effect it aims to trigger, in the hope that suppliers’ efforts to source renewable energy will cascade onto their own suppliers and partners, and so on. “This strategy suits us perfectly,” says Sébastien. “In fact, we now have an excess of renewable power in the US and have been approaching other customers who might be interested in benefiting from it. This agreement is clearly leading the way.”
|Solutions country by country|
|These are the renewable energy solutions Solvay implemented in order to provide its customer with materials made with 100% green power, and with sufficient flexibility to be able to adapt to future demand. More often than not, these were pre-existing projects that the agreement accelerated.|
The creation of a large solar farm (950 acres, 71 megawatts) in Jasper, South Carolina was enabled by Solvay’s financial commitment: the Group will purchase 100% of the RECs the plant produces for the next 15 years.
The “Solvay Solar Energy Jasper County” project was already underway before the Apple agreement, but it accelerated its finalization. “What made this project ideal is that it covers four different Specialty Polymers plants in the southern US, enabling us to surpass our renewable power requirements for the agreement,” explains Alain.
On the Indian market, Solvay started out by purchasing RECs for its Specialty Polymers plant in Panoli, Gujarat. Pushing things one step further, the Group has now started producing its own green power thanks to solar panels on the facility’s rooftops.
“Like most of these projects, this is going to turn out to be a profitable operation,” says Alain. “It’s a great demonstration of the fact that renewable energy can be a competitive solution today, regardless of Apple’s demands.”
In China, the energy market is state-regulated: consumers have to buy their power from government-owned utilities. The most efficient solution to support renewable energy is therefore to invest in local green power projects.
Instead of investing in a project on its own, Solvay decided to join Apple’s China Clean Energy Fund, an initiative gathering ten initial Apple suppliers in China in a several hundred million dollar fund to invest in renewables in China. “This was a much more interesting solution for us, offering greater investment capacities, the possibility to fund multiple projects simultaneously, and less financial risk,” says Alain.
On top of that, Solvay is planning the construction of a wind farm next to its Specialty Polymers’ site in Changshu, near Shanghai. “The Apple agreement accelerated our knowledge of the renewables market in China, increasing our expertise and know-how,” explains Alain, “which is exactly the effect they wanted it to have.”
|Volumes of materials in France, Belgium and Germany are much smaller and variable than in other countries, so for the time being, purchasing high quality RECs suffices. “We’re currently studying other renewable power solutions for our plants in Europe”, explains Alain.|