"We are committed to a future powered by renewable energy": Morten Dyrholm, Vestas Wind Systems

Reading time: 5 minutes
26 October 2017

Already sourcing 100% renewable power for its operations, Vestas has joined RE100 to help further market change. Here, Morten Dyrholm, Group Senior Vice President of Marketing, Communications & Public Affairs, Vestas Wind Systems, explains the company’s approach and ambitions.

Why did Vestas go 100% renewable?

“Vestas is committed to a future powered by renewable energy and has been so for the last 40 years. We pioneered the wind industry by building the first wind turbine, and four decades later we are manufacturing wind turbines that produce energy at a cost that is competitive with fossil fuels. Today, we are exploring innovative solutions that will aid and accelerate the transition to an energy market that is defined by a high share of renewables.

“These efforts have paved the way for corporates to take the lead towards a low carbon economy, driven by consumer demands, while lowering their electricity bills. And it is for the exact same reasons that Vestas has decided to make its own operations powered by 100% renewable electricity: our DNA rooted belief of a low carbon economy and because it makes economic sense.

“We are delivering the sustainable energy solutions but we also want to be part of the solution, which this commitment underlines.  We hope this will inspire other companies in the sector.”

How have you done it, and what have been the challenges and opportunities?

“We set our first renewable electricity target back in 2010 and two years later we decided to increase that target to 100%. The target was reached in 2013. This is done by sourcing renewable electricity where available, primarily through local renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs) or with Vestas-owned wind power plants, such as our test turbines in Denmark. As our operations and electricity consumption grows, our commitment is to stay at 100%.

“Having Vestas-owned wind power plants has definitely helped us to reach the target more quickly than if all the renewable power was purchased. We still face challenges in sourcing renewable electricity in, for example, China and India. In these markets, we are working on sourcing renewable electricity to ensure the development of local solutions.”

So effectively, you’re using wind power to create wind power infrastructure?

“Yes exactly! And what might not be clear to everyone is that the return on energy is impressive. Already after roughly six months of operation of an onshore wind turbine, it has generated the equivalent amount of energy it took to produce it.”

Why is RE100 an important initiative to join?

“RE100 helps to bring attention to the growing private sector commitment to a greener and more sustainable future through sourcing renewable energy. In addition to making sense from a sustainability point of view, it also makes economic sense.

“Vestas has four decades of experience and expertise in shaping and supporting markets for wind energy. We also believe RE100 forms a strong voice in the policy discussions on how to create supportive frameworks for renewable energy.

“Working with RE100 also provides Vestas with an opportunity to more specifically support the company’s thought leadership, engagement and advocacy efforts. These aim to develop a policy framework for PPAs that enables more renewables in the energy mix, and brings about more ambitious targets for renewable energy.”

Do you think companies have an important role to play in shifting the energy market?

“Companies and the larger private sector play a huge role in shifting the energy markets. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, US$11.3 trillion will be invested in power generation to meet the rapidly increasing energy demand. And it is the private sector that will provide the technologies and innovations that will make this shift happen. As an example, last year the R&D expenditure in the European wind sector was almost 5% of the industry’s gross domestic product (GDP).”

What else are you doing to help bring about a low carbon economy?

“Even though wind energy’s lifecycle carbon footprint is extremely low when compared to other sources such as oil and gas, Vestas constantly strives to improve the environmental performance of its production and operations in order to match the performance of our products.

“In 2011-15 we promised to reduce our product carbon footprint by 5%, but we actually reached 15%. We continue the journey with a new target of 5% for 2016-2020 that we already strive beyond once more. As a company, Vestas aims to decrease our overall use of energy, increase our use of renewable energy, and use less carbon-intensive energy forms.”

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