General Mills’ RE100 commitment
General Mills Inc., a US-based food company, that offers a wide range of foods such as snacks, cereals, ice cream, and pet foods, has newly joined RE100. The company will shift its electricity used to 100% renewable energy by 2030. RE100 is an international network of companies that have declared to use 100% renewable energy for their businesses. General Mills will increase the renewable energy ratio by purchasing electricity generated from wind power generation in addition to biogas power generation at its own plants.
The biogas power plants are already in operation at three manufacturing facilities in the United States, Brazil, and France. Generally, biogas power generation is a mechanism where methane gas, generated by microorganisms decomposing garbage and livestock manure, is burned to generate electricity or used as it is. Since the company has raw materials such as food waste in its facilities, it enables efficient biogas power generation.
According to the announcement, it also converts the wastewater from its yogurt and dough production into the biogas fuel. At the facility in Tennessee, electricity and heat from the generator are used directly in the yogurt production to reduce power consumption from fossil fuels by up to 20%. 30% of electricity used has successfully been reduced in the facility in Brazil. At the France Häagen-Dazs production facility, heat in the form of hot water generated during power generation is used to reduce natural gas consumption.
In terms of wind power generation, since it is a little complicated, I will explain how to make a contract for electric power called virtual PPA (abbreviation of power purchase agreement) first. In recent years, there are many cases that, while companies are required to introduce renewable energy, there are no power plants such as wind power and solar power near business offices and facilities. This situation is increasing the number of companies that install equipment such as biogas power generation and solar power generation like above, in their facilities; however, it is difficult for the equipment to cover all the electricity required.
To address these difficulties, virtual PPA has been brought. This is a mechanism in which, although the electricity actually used comes from the existing electric power grid, those who pay a fixed price for a long time to a renewable energy company can receive a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC). Companies that obtained REC are considered to be using renewable energy, and even if there is no renewable energy power plant near their offices and facilities, it enables to make its power consumption 100% renewable energy. In 2017, General Mills signed a 15-year virtual PPA with RES Americas that operates a wind power business in Texas, which is the most active in wind power generation in the United States. The company also signed another 15-year contract in another power generation business in 2019. The electricity from these two contracts represents 100% of the annual electricity used at its facilities in the United States.
The company, which has already achieved 100% renewable energy in the United States, will invest in the renewable energy power generation business overseas as well. The global company is moving beyond the framework of nation to take environmental measures on a global scale.