Feature Image for GM’s Energy Vision: The Future is Electric with Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions and Zero Congestion

GM’s Energy Vision: The Future is Electric with Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions and Zero Congestion

GM uses about 8.5 terawatts of power annually. Going to 100 percent renewables will carry challenges, but we believe a clean-energy economy is worth the effort. By the end of 2018, we’ll surpass the 20 percent mark. The commitment represents all the facilities where we pay utility bills, which includes both manufacturing and non-manufacturing buildings leased or owned by GM.

This action also aligns with our promise to deliver safer, simpler and more sustainable solutions for our customers. We believe the future is electric and our teams are thinking holistically about product and energy strategies so that cleaner cars drive on a cleaner grid, providing community benefits. These efforts strengthen our business and help address climate change.

GM’s target date for 100 percent renewables is 2050. How do you think the renewables markets — in the U.S. or internationally — will have evolved by then?

Looking around both the U.S. and overseas, it’s hard to miss the ever-improving economics of renewables. As this continues, renewable energy will become the default new-capacity technology in many markets. Storage — both utility-scale and distributed — will arrive in a big way, helping renewables scale further. In some overseas markets, we see renewables being the key to grid expansion and reliability; developing economies will build around renewables going forward. By the time we get to 2050, we expect that more utility-supplied energy will be renewable, and that we’ll have more options to source non-utility renewables everywhere GM operates.

We’ve been able to scale our efforts thanks to greater collaboration with departments outside of the sustainability space, including finance and treasury, legal, policy and facilities.”

Global Manager — Renewable Energy, Global Facilities and Environment
General Motors

GM has executed multiple transactions in multiple energy markets. Is the process getting easier?

Our team has built up experience across different types of energy transactions — on-site energy production and off-site, landfill gas, solar, and wind. That’s a huge asset. We’ve become comfortable with the dynamics of different renewables strategies.

We’ve also been able to scale our efforts thanks to greater collaboration with departments outside of the sustainability space, including finance and treasury, legal, policy and facilities. Getting the ear of all these corporate functions is a matter of consistently demonstrating the sound business approach — one that locks us into stable energy prices and reduces risk through a diverse energy portfolio.

These ongoing conversations lead to broken-down silos and an acceleration of the use of renewable energy sources. Each month we meet to enable this collaboration and answer questions. The end result: The process becomes shorter after every negotiation, leading to clean-energy deals turned around faster.

How does GM’s renewable energy strategy link with its end-product vision?

Our CEO, Mary Barra, has outlined a company vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. GM backed up this zero-emissions commitment by announcing we’ll introduce two electric vehicles (EVs) in the next 18 months — the first of at least 20 new EVs by 2023.

Transportation users — whether individual consumers or commercial and industrial fleet managers — want EVs for many of the same reasons GM is harnessing renewables: They want to source and support clean, domestic energy. They want to reduce their exposure to price volatility. And they want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The electrification of transportation presents continued growth opportunities for the renewable energy industry. We continue to align our energy strategy and our product strategy to enable cleaner cars on a cleaner grid.

If you could wave a magic wand, what two things would you change about the U.S. renewable energy market?

Reduced complexity and product flexibility. That could mean more utility products, better financing mechanisms, or shorter-term power purchase agreements. The market will need new products to reach and serve mid-size and smaller commercial energy users, as well as residential customers, who are pursuing more clean-energy options. We want to help make the market accessible for all organizations.

Make sure you have the right expertise. We’ve used an outside advisor to support our efforts because they bring market access and analytics resources that we don’t have in house.”

Global Manager — Renewable Energy, Global Facilities and Environment
General Motors

Do you have two or three key recommendations for companies that are just starting to consider renewables?

Renewable energy transactions typically span a series of functions within an organization; energy, sustainability, legal, treasury, finance, operations and procurement. Each of these internal stakeholders will have different questions and perspectives. Engaging them early and often will only strengthen the deals that ultimately emerge.

Secondly, make sure you have the right expertise. We’ve used an outside advisor to support our efforts because they bring market access and analytics resources that we don’t have in house. And that’s added to our total team strength. It is key to have the resources to address the complexities, risks, and questions that are part of executing an effective renewable energy strategy.

We just released our blueprint, “Accelerating and Scaling Corporate Renewable Energy,” which summaries clean-energy strategies for companies of all sizes. It’s intended to help others create efficiencies, gain internal support and drive progress. You can download it here and visit gm.green for more content.


Edison Energy’s Ask the Expert series features conversations with leading stakeholders from across the commercial, industrial, and institutional energy industries. The experts here have helped their organizations capture the financial-, risk- and sustainability-value of energy; through on- and off-site renewables, through efficiency, and through commodity procurement. Visit frequently or join our email list to keep up to date with the latest insights from the people who are making it happen.


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