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Five Customers, Five Questions: GM

Our first interview is with Monica Walker, General Motors’ renewables and energy strategy manager. Discussions about greenhouse gas accounting all too often overlook the tremendous role of energy customers in driving grid decarbonization investments and the efforts of the people who make that clean energy procurement happen. The Clean Energy Buyers Institute has interviewed five energy professionals and asked five questions, to reveal insights and real stories about their hard work to advance the carbon-free energy transition. Customer perspectives are important for broader industry dialogues, particularly as World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development update the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

Monica Walker, General Motors
Renewables and Energy Strategy Manager

1. Could you share an example or two illustrating how and why carbon-free electricity (CFE) procurement is important for your company and for decarbonizing the grid?  

General Motors is committed to achieving a world with zero crashes, zero congestion, and zero emissions. This includes commitments to 100% renewable energy usage in our U.S. operations by 2025, and globally by 2035. In addition to our operational goals, by mid-2024, we expect to produce 400,000 electric vehicles (EVs) from multiple brands, and we’ll aggressively scale from there, with one of our goals being to reach 1 million units of EV capacity in North America by the end of 2025. We need the electricity system to be fully decarbonized to produce these vehicles as well as charge them with clean energy.

2. How does the voluntary market system affect how you assess different CFE procurement options and ultimately make decisions?  

Under the current system, energy customers are incentivized to procure clean energy at least cost. On top of this guidance, GM’s clean energy sourcing strategy involves sourcing renewable energy in the same energy market that our facilities exist, where possible. This allows us to have the most impact on localized emissions reduction.

3. How do energy attribute certificates (EACs) and market-based accounting affect your decision making, and why? 

EACs and market-based accounting provide a relatively easy way to substantiate renewable energy claims. To date, we have sourced over 1 gigawatt (GW) of clean energy to power our facilities with renewable electricity, and we recently announced that we have sourced all the renewable energy needed to power our U.S. facilities with renewables by 2025. When our target was originally set in 2016, our initial timeline was set for 2050. By accelerating our goal and procuring renewable energy sooner, we’ve helped to enable the build-out of new renewable energy assets up to five years faster than originally planned.

4. What advice would you give to companies that are just starting their efforts to procure carbon-free electricity? 

GM has taken a four-pillar approach to our CFE work. This includes making investments in more energy efficient equipment and processes, investments in renewable energy, addressing intermittency in renewables, and policy engagement to shape the clean energy landscape for the future. When designing your company’s CFE strategy, ask yourself: what is your company’s long-term goal with these efforts? You might consider factors such as strategies that help your company have more localized emissions reduction, engaging with communities in this transition, potentially investing in new carbon-free technologies, working to increase grid resiliency during this transition, and using your company’s voice to enact policy changes in favor of carbon-free procurement.

5. If you could change one thing in today’s CFE markets to help your company go even further in decarbonizing the grid, what would it be? 

Something that would help us in our zero-emissions journey would be an avoided emissions impact-based indicator, supplementing the market-based method to add greater precision to the emissions reduction reporting. For example, each EAC could have hourly timestamps and/or grid emissions intensity. Having a metric around this would incentivize voluntary procurement in more carbon-intensive grids.