Two years ago, Tetra Pak, a Lausanne, Switzerland–based manufacturer of processing equipment and packaging solutions for the food industry, announced its commitment to increase use of renewable electricity from 20%, then to 100%, across all global operations by 2030. On July 10, 2018, the company announced that it has achieved 50% renewable electricity consumption.
According to Tetra Pak, the company’s renewable electricity has increased by a factor of 2.5, up from 20% in 2016.
No, Tetra Pak’s manufacturing facilities have not left the grid. This amazing feat has been achieved through a “combination of initiatives, including the purchase of International Renewable Energy Certificates (I-RECs) and solar power installations at its own facilities,” the company said.
The Renewable Energy Certificate System was created by RECS International to “stimulate international development of renewable energy,” according to Wikipedia. “A RECS energy certificate is issued for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable energy produced by an electricity generation facility that was registered with the relevant national RECS issuing body.” The market for RECS certificates is administered by the Association of Issuing Bodies through its European Energy Certificate System.
“Through the purchase of renewable energy certificates, we are investing in the development of infrastructure to increase the availability of renewable electricity,” commented Mario Abrue, Vice President, Sustainability, at Tetra Pak. “Meanwhile, we are also exploring opportunities to scale up our own on-site solar power installations.”
Tetra Pak factories in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and South Africa use electricity from 100% renewable sources, and 17 of its major sites now run exclusively on renewable electricity, the company said.
Abrue doesn’t explain how installing solar at factories in places like Sweden, Finland and Denmark will give them enough energy to run their manufacturing plants, especially during the winter months when sunlight is minimal. Additionally, according to information on solar fields, a large fixed-tilt solar power plant that produces 1,000 megawatt-hours per year requires, on average, 2.8 acres for solar panel installation. A solar power plant that provides all of the electricity for 1,000 homes would require 32 acres of land.
One megawatt of electricity equates to 1.1 to 1.6 million units of electricity annually, so why doesn’t a 1-megawatt solar power plant generate 24 megawatts of electricity a day? That is because 1 megawatt is the rated capability only on good sunshine hours, said the technical information. That means that Tetra Pak’s South African facility can probably meet its demand for electricity from an on-site solar facility if it has the acreage on or near the plant’s site needed to install a large number of solar panels.