Emissions associated with the use of biogenic fuels shown above are not included in our performance metrics. This approach is consistent with the internationally recognised Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
At the end of 2012 renewable energy contributed 26.3% of our total energy use compared to 15.8% in 2008 and 20.2% in 2011.
In some cases the cost of renewable energy remains high relative to non-renewable alternatives. The opportunity to introduce renewable technologies on a scale that significantly contributes to our global target is also a challenge.
Therefore, we continue to evaluate renewable technologies that are scalable and cost effective to keep us on track to meet our target to double our use of renewable energy by 2020.
Reducing GHG emissions through biomass
Sustainable sources of biomass present a significant opportunity to increase our use of renewable energy in manufacturing and help us reach our renewable energy target.
Investment in biomass boilers is therefore an integral part of our wider manufacturing sustainability strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We are now using bio-energy at 30 of our 252 manufacturing sites, providing around 7% of the energy we use. This reduces our annual emissions from fossil fuels by over 150,000 tonnes of CO₂. We are planning to install additional boilers at sites in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
In 2012, we commissioned a new biomass boiler at our Pouso Alegre site in Brazil which produces our AdeS and Knorr products. This burns recycled wood rather than oil and will reduce emissions by around 80%.
Other sources of bio-energy include biogas from the on-site treatment of process wastewaters by anaerobic digestion. Our Marmite factory in the UK uses this technology. In 2012 we commissioned a new anaerobic digestion plant to generate biogas used to produce energy at our ice cream factory in Banino, Poland.
Renewable energy in Europe & North America
The way we buy our energy is a key consideration. In 2012, we increased the proportion of energy we purchased from verified renewable energy schemes. All manufacturing sites in Europe, Canada and the US – more than one-third of all of our manufacturing sites – purchased electricity from renewable sources during 2012. The only exception to this is where a site sources electricity from energy-efficient combined heat and power plants.
The resulting reductions in CO₂emissions are estimated at over 500,000 tonnes, equivalent to 22% of our total emissions worldwide. The approach we took to achieve this in Europe included:
power purchase agreements (PPAs) with national renewable energy producers in countries where liberalised energy markets, governmental incentives and the size of Unilever’s electricity consumption in that country allows it
purchase of national renewable electricity certificates (RECs) generated in individual countries from a dedicated renewable electricity source
purchase of RECs from a dedicated hydro power producer which will cover all electricity consumption of those sites where we are not able to implement national renewable electricity initiatives.
Each year, an independent certification company validates the approach we have taken in Europe.
Our renewable energy portfolio
We make a distinction between our on-site initiatives that generate and use renewable energy and renewable energy purchased from the national electricity grids in the countries where we operate. Of the total energy we used, 26.3% came from renewable sources in 2012, an increase of 15.8% from 2008.
Of our total, approximately 28% came from our on-site initiatives, largely in developing countries. This included the burning of fuel crops, wood from managed plantations and waste materials, such as spent coffee husks and sugar cane bagasse, as well as solar technologies, hydro-electricity and biogas.
The purchase of certified renewable energy, predominantly in Europe and North America, accounted for approximately 59%, with the remaining 13% coming from the national electricity grids in the countries where we operate.
The table below shows the different types of renewable energy we used in 2012.*
Internal energy generation or purchased (GJ)
External energy generation (GJ)
|Purchased||Certified green power||4,746,479||Renewable electricity from national grids||1,018,862|
|Generated||Fuel crops||1,179,033|| || |
| ||Solid biomass waste||589,593|| || |
| ||Wood/wood waste||326,439|| || |
| ||Liquid biofuels||86,044|| || |
| ||Biogas||9,419|| || |
| ||Hydro-electric power||31,785|| || |
| ||Solar photovoltaic & thermal||39|| || |
|Totals|| ||6,968,831|| ||1,018,862|
|Proportion of global energy supply|| ||23.0%|| ||3.3%|
However, in some countries there is a lack of options for purchasing renewable energy due to either availability or prohibitive costs. This is one constraint on our progress but we expect the situation to improve. We are currently investigating other renewable energy opportunities better suited to local conditions, such as our recent investments in biomass boilers.
In 2012, we commissioned a new biomass boiler at our Pouso Alegre site in Brazil. This burns recycled wood rather than oil. Combined with the full year benefits of investment in new boilers at our Goa, Mysore and Nashik manufacturing sites in India in 2011, these projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 25,000 tonnes per year.
CO₂ emissions from different energy sources
Our manufacturing sites use different sources of energy depending on their production processes and also their geographical location. The following chart shows the CO₂ emissions from our different energy sources between 2002 and 2012.
Sources of greenhouse gas emissions by type
The chart below shows in more detail our GHG emissions from the energy sources used by our manufacturing sites, together with other site GHG emissions (refrigerant losses, effluent treatment and waste to landfill).