AkzoNobel: Powering the energy transition

15 August 2023

The energy transition definitely isn’t powering itself. AkzoNobel’s Christian Eschauzier, Global Director of Environment, and Eline Lenselink, Global Category Manager Manufacturing Services, discuss how energy usage is making a difference across the world at AkzoNobel

“Both of our roles seek to make the path to our ambitions more tangible by making the translation from vision to strategy and then execution,” says Christian.

In order to achieve the decarbonization target of 50% by 2030 that AkzoNobel has for its own operations (also known as Scope 1 and 2 emissions), Christian and Eline focus on two pillars. One is increasing renewable electricity purchase to 100% and the other is reducing the relative energy we consume by 30% by 2030 (versus 2018 as a baseline).

“As you can see from the image [above], when we talk about the energy transition, Scope 1 and 2 are within our direct control,” says Christian. “When talking about these emission ‘buckets’, it’s crucial to realise that our Scope 1 and 2 are someone else’s Scope 3, and therefore we need to walk the talk and show reduction in our own organisation.

“When you break down the Scope 1 and 2 emission reduction that Eline and I are focused on into real numbers – for instance, actual reduction targets for the sites – the difference we can make is significant, though not necessarily easy to achieve.”

“Suppliers are asking for proof of renewable energy sources and increasingly see it as the norm. What I think is important to say is that it’s a collaborative effort... We cannot do these things alone."Eline Lenselink, Global Category Manager Manufacturing Services at AkzoNobel

Sites have a big role to play in consuming less energy

AkzoNobel has committed to reducing its relative energy consumption by 30% by 2030 (baseline 2018). Since the bulk of its energy consumption comes from the manufacturing sites – around 80% of it – this is where most of its attention is placed, in addition to offices, warehouses and stores.

“In terms of actually reducing the energy consumption, there is no secret other than filling up a pipeline of energy reduction projects,” says Christian. “What we’ve seen is that the number one easy and cost-effective solution is shutting down equipment when not in use – just like at home, turn off the light.”

“We’re steadily getting traction as sites get a better understanding of their consumption patterns,” he explains. “For example, the energy consumption on sites can be quite high over the weekend when it shouldn’t be. Sites then systematically identify what can be turned off, turned down or consolidated. Understanding the power bill and monitoring usage in specific areas provide us with insights we can use to reduce consumption.

“What’s critical is that we have people on site that support these activities and bring them to the next level – which, considering numerous KPIs and other responsibilities, isn’t an easy task. If the energy champion and the management team can overcome resource and prioritisation challenges, we make progress. It takes time and a collective effort from everyone in the organisation, but now, certainly helped by high energy prices, we see our pipeline of energy projects filling up.”


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Investments with impact

AkzoNobel has various projects across the world focused on energy reduction, such as:

  • LED lighting in Montataire, France: The biggest warehouse at the site generated an annual energy consumption of 1.4GWh. Since switching to LEDs, the lights’ energy consumption is now 10x lower, saving €380,000/yr.
  • Upgraded air compressors in Tianjin, China: Changes to the optimised air compressor network, which include leak detectors, reduced air pressure, serviced equipment and use of alternate energy sources, will save the site €27,500/yr.
  • Installation of heat pumps in Angered, Sweden (pictured below): Upgrades to the heating system at the site reduced the total site energy consumption by 20%, eliminated the use of oil for heating and enabled digital control and monitoring.

Furthermore, AkzoNobel sites around the world are harnessing solar power, such as Izmir, Turkey; Nilai, Malaysia; Guangzhou, China; Elefsis, Greece; Barcelona, Spain; Shanghai, China; Chonburi, Thailand; Mauå, Brazil; Garcia, Mexico.

Energy buying and carbon footprint

On the renewable electricity side of AkzoNobel’s decarbonisation roadmap, Eline brings in the procurement side of the equation. To put it very simply, Eline is the energy buyer – of both electricity and natural gas – for all countries where AkzoNobel operates. She’s also responsible for the strategy behind how we buy, which is in turn related to our decarbonisation strategy.

“Preferably we have solar panels on site and we produce our own electricity,” explains Eline. “The next best option is to buy green electricity from producers, such as a windmill park on the sea or a nearby solar park, which is often a challenge due to limited availability in the current market. For the rest of the energy volume, we need to obtain renewable electricity certificates to achieve 100% of electricity coming from renewable sources.”

“Suppliers are asking for proof of renewable energy sources and increasingly see it as the norm. What I think is important to say is that it’s a collaborative effort. A pillar of our transition is to brainstorm with our partners, suppliers and customers on what we can do together and how we can break down barriers to doing things more sustainably. We cannot do these things alone.

“Seeing others working on this with us gives me energy. Ultimately the energy transition starts with you, asking yourself ‘what can I do to reduce the energy I’m using,’” says Eline.

Christian adds: “Our 2030 ambition is 50% less carbon emissions in our own operations and across the value chain. Achieving this will be a major milestone that will prepare us for the next challenge: carbon neutral by 2050.”

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