Gerald Johnson Remarks at GM's ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry Event in Flint, Mich.

Primary tabs

Gerald Johnson Remarks at GM's ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry Event in Flint, Mich.

tweet me:
Gerald Johnson remarks at @GM's @ENERGYSTAR Challenge for Industry event in Flint, Mich.

Multimedia from this Release

Gerald Johnson, vice president of GM North America Manufacturing

Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 1:00pm

CAMPAIGN: GM Energy Efficiency

CONTENT: Article

Thanks Amy [Amy Farmer, complex director for GM’s Flint Manufacturing Operations] and Barry [Barry Campbell, chairman of UAW Local 598]. And thanks to all of you for coming out on this beautiful day.

Mayor Walling [Dayne Walling, mayor of Flint, Michigan], I’d also like to welcome you and express our appreciation for your ongoing support of GM’s Flint Operations.

I am very excited to be a part of today’s event. We have some great news to share that is testament to GM’s sustainability commitment and our dedicated workforce that live it every day here in Flint and around the world.

It’s another milestone in an ongoing journey to reduce our carbon footprint and help set an example for industry.

Just a few months ago, we became the first automaker among 40 major U.S. companies to sign a climate declaration, collectively asserting that responding to climate change is good for business.

The news today further demonstrates our commitment.

I’m pleased to announce that nine more of our plants have achieved the U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR® Challenge for Industry, bringing our grand total to 63.   

No other organization worldwide has as many facilities meeting this voluntary challenge to cut energy intensity 10 percent over the course of five years. 

Thanks to our devoted employees, the majority of these 63 plants did it even faster, accomplishing the goal within two to three years.

Our bottom line benefits from these conservation activities. Collectively, these 63 plants helped us avoid $162 million dollars in energy costs.

We’re making significant environmental gains, as well. The amount of CO2 we avoided is equal to the electricity used by 244,000 homes in the U.S. That’s more than double the number of homes in Bay City, Flint, Midland and Saginaw combined. That’s 1.6M metric tons of CO2.

But when it comes to the environment, there’s always more to do. Ways to be even more efficient.

It’s all about continuous improvement. 

Twenty-two of the 63 plants on the list are repeat winners, including Flint Assembly and Flint Engine. These 22 facilities went above and beyond the call of duty to further reduce their emissions after the first recognition.

Flint Assembly cut their energy use by 30 percent when they were originally recognized in 2011. For this second go-round, they reduced it another 13 percent.

And next door at Flint Engine, they reduced energy use by 19 percent; on top of the 10 percent they reduced in 2011.

It gets to a point where you’re beyond the low-hanging fruit; employees are crafting creative, new roads to energy savings every day.

Take Flint Engine, for example. They reduced the amount of air leaving the plant by reducing the energy emitted by motors from 11 mist collectors. With less air leaving the plant, fewer air handling units need to be running to maintain building pressure.

We take energy management very seriously at GM.  Energy costs for a company our size is significant…. We spend about $1B on it.

To manage these numbers, our employees use software called Energy OnStar to compare the hourly performance of heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment and their energy use.

This insight gives us an accurate snapshot of performance and allows us to see areas where we can quickly improve.

It’s this level of commitment and precision that spurred the EPA to recognize us earlier this year with its highest award for corporate energy management—the Energy Star Partner of the Year for Sustained Excellence.

Since we’re here in Flint, I’d like to use them as a backdrop for our environmental story. Our commitment extends beyond energy efficiency. For example, Flint Engine was the birthplace of our landfill-free program back in 2005.  That year, it became the first GM plant to NOT send one single garbage bag to landfill. Since then, we have added 105 more facilities to our tally, making GM a benchmark company in terms of waste reduction.

When you think of energy efficient manufacturing facilities, you probably picture brand-new sparkling buildings with energy efficient practices already built in. But the facility we’re standing in was constructed in 1947.

In fact, it’s among our oldest facilities and still achieving energy efficiency gains day after day. We’re talking about a building more than 60 years old being a model for how an innovative workforce can make an older infrastructure compete with new builds in terms of energy efficiency.

So how do we do it? I’ll concentrate on the efforts right here.

It used to be that powerhouse boilers at Flint Assembly were left on during plant shut-downs, which resulted in wasted energy. But now, by exchanging steam water heaters with electric ones, boilers are turned off for seven weeks during the year.

The assembly plant also replaced low efficiency lighting with high efficiency, which has reduced electricity usage by 5,390 megawatt hours.

And a heating and cooling optimization project, which was put in place to get better control of air handling units, reduced and/or eliminated some steam heaters.

For Flint Assembly, we have avoided more than $2.9 million in energy costs since 2011.

At Flint Engine, our engineers came up with a way to turn off our chillers remotely by scheduling the start/stop function. Essentially, the chiller would shut down based on a pre-determined time that was built into the software, enabling higher annual energy savings.

All told, Flint Engine has avoided more than $2.3 million in energy costs since 2010.

Even Flint Metal Center, one of the first GM plants to meet the Challenge in 2011, is making a contribution.

They swapped out old metal halide fixtures with higher efficiency lighting to avoid energy costs.

These Energy Star achievements complement GM’s own goal to slash energy and carbon intensity 20 percent by 2020. We highlighted our progress toward this goal and others in terms of waste reduction, water conservation and wildlife habitat preservation in our sustainability report published just a month ago.

But our work doesn’t end inside of our facilities. To be a leader, you need to share your insight and help spur even greater change beyond your walls.  

We make a point of getting out into the community to do just this.

Earlier this year, members of our Professional Managers’ Network in Flint loaned their time to the YWCA of Greater Flint to swap out old lighting with more efficient lighting, providing their own safety equipment to rewire the lights that could save the YWCA upwards of $9,000 a year.

We’ve also donated money to the city to purchase and plant trees on the site of an old industrial facility where the trees, merely by being in the ground, will be used to eliminate heavy metals, pesticides, and other types of pollution.

Our employees are committed to talking about what we’ve learned throughout our efforts with other businesses and local community groups.

They are an engaged workforce that understands the value of a sustainable working environment.  Their commitment doesn’t stop when the workday ends. It extends to their personal lives as well.

At GM, creativity and energy management are intertwined. Environmental responsibility, and the business case for it, has become as important to our business as designing and selling the world’s best vehicles.

Sustainability is not just a buzz word; it’s a real part of our manufacturing process. And today’s announcement confirms we’re moving in the right direction.

So in conclusion, I’d like to congratulate the joint teams at Flint Assembly and Flint Engine and the 29 other GM teams earning the EPA’s Energy Star recognition.

Thank you.