Umicore plays a key role in the transition to a low-carbon society.
We produce rechargeable battery materials for EVs, catalysts for reducing transport and industrial emissions, and contribute to resource stewardship by recycling metals and end-of-life products in a closed loop. In our own operations, we are committed to achieving further energy efficiency compared to our 2015 levels.
Energy consumption is continually monitored and regulated at all sites. The bigger contributors are additionally encouraged to develop energy efficiency projects and are required to report on them. Several Umicore sites have implemented the ISO 50001 energy efficiency standard and the 2 largest sites in Belgium have been part of the energy efficiency covenant with the Flemish government since 2004.
In 2020, 26 sites accounted for 95% of the Group’s energy consumption with a total of 38 energy efficiency projects implemented over the course of the year. By the end of 2020, Umicore had achieved a 17% reduction in energy consumption compared to the 2015 baseline, correcting for production intensity. This result is the combination of improvements in productivity and the continuous implementation of energy efficiency projects. Over the last 5 years, 189 efficiency projects were implemented, the bulk of which tackled heat, HVAC, lighting and process efficiencies.
When looking at our carbon emissions, we register a 7% reduction compared to 2019. In 2020, we built a nitric acid plant at our Hoboken site in Belgium, where we also produce sulfuric acid. Nitrous oxide, a byproduct of sulfuric acid production also known as laughing gas, is a greenhouse gas that has about 300 times more impact on global warming than carbon dioxide (CO2). By capturing and transforming nitrous oxide released during production into nitric acid, we avoid the emission of nitrous oxide into the air. In doing so, we reduce our carbon footprint by almost 40,000 tonnes CO2e/year and turn waste into a resource, a pillar of the Umicore business model. When compared to the outset of our Horizon 2020 strategy, our carbon emissions have increased 3%. In that time, Umicore has expanded in terms of operational footprint and ramped up production lines while maintaining a continuous process improvement approach.
In recent years, as part of our commitment to sustainable operations, we began examining the share of renewable energy in our purchased energy mix. 2019 marked the first year we systematically collected information from our sites on purchased electricity sourced from wind, solar and/or biomass energy and could report the result. In 2020, the share of renewables in Umicore’s purchased energy mix was 15%.
While choosing the share of renewables in our purchased energy mix is a challenge in some of the regions where we are most active, Umicore is actively pursuing an increase in the share of renewables in our purchased energy mix.