A BMW logo on a car at the 87th International Motor Show at Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland. Picture: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE
A BMW logo on a car at the 87th International Motor Show at Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland. Picture: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE

Berlin/Munich — BMW’s plan to switch exclusively to green electricity finds it tapping some unusual power sources, including a South African biomass plant that runs on cow dung and chicken droppings.

The arrangement is part of the car maker’s bid to shift all its external power purchases to renewables by 2020, up from 63% last year, head of procurement Markus Duesmann said in a speech at the UN climate conference in Bonn.

Meeting the target means the car maker will buy local clean power for all its 31 production sites in 14 countries, said Duesmann. BMW is already getting power from diverse sources such as wind turbines at its plant in Leipzig, Germany. It’s also getting methane gas from a landfill near its Spartanburg operation in South Carolina, he said.

BMW’s effort to switch to renewable energy comes as the car maker is spending billions on a suite of electric vehicles. Claims of manufacturers making cleaner vehicles are under scrutiny as the amount of power and raw materials involved in production of batteries as well as electricity sources offsets advantages of emission-free cars.

The massive investment and uncertain payoff have put pressure on the company’s shares, which have declined 3.7% in 2017. The stock declined 0.7% to €85.49 at 9.19am in Frankfurt trading.

In practice, BMW will need to find enough extra power from renewables to supply the equivalent of about 220,000 homes, based on its annual electricity use of about one terrawatt.

To get there, the company will seek more supply deals with solar energy providers, Jury Witschnig, head of sustainability strategy, said in a phone interview on Tuesday. These agreements will go as far as BMW working with solar companies to build energy systems at company sites or becoming a cornerstone customer with long-term offtake agreements for future projects, he said.

Bloomberg

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