The cleanest energy is energy that doesn’t need to be made

The cleanest energy is energy that doesn’t need to be made

The ŠKODA plant in Vrchlabí is now completely CO2 neutral. And other plants are going to follow. Take a look at how this transition is taking place.

7. 10. 2021 Škoda World

The carmaker ŠKODA announced some time ago that in the second half of the current decade all energy used for the production of vehicles and components at its plants in the Czech Republic will be carbon neutral. At Vrchlabí this was supposed to be achieved by the end of last year – and it was.

Renewable electricity

So how did the Vrchlabí factory’s journey to the targeted carbon neutrality come about? The most important step was the switch from traditional sources of electricity to renewable ones. 

“In 2020, over 90 per cent of all electricity at the Vrchlabí plant came from renewable sources. If we had used conventional energy sources, we would have emitted 45,000 tonnes of CO2 into the air, but with renewables we got it down to less than three thousand tonnes,” calculates Pavel Grmela, project coordinator from the Ecology and Occupational Protection section.

Opatreni-c.1.JPGUsing the gravitational separation principle, the chip conveyor has been adapted to return residual emulsion to the machine without additional costs.

It goes without saying that this requires maximum transparency – and that is why the Czech carmaker always demands the necessary certificates of origin for the electricity it buys, so that it’s certain the energy supplied actually comes from renewable sources. 

Energy-saving measures are always the first step towards carbon neutrality. Almost twenty energy-saving measures were put into effect in 2020, such as the introduction of an energy management system, optimisation of ventilation, closing heating circuits that are no longer in use, replacing and regulating lighting or installing smart air-conditioning control. This saved 2,000 MWh of heat and 1,500 MWh of electricity, which is the equivalent of the annual consumption of around 1,000 households. “The cleanest energy is energy that doesn’t have to be generated,” says Grmela.

The waste disposal system has also changed according to the WMIS (Waste Management Information System) standard.

40,000 trees and birdhouses

Vrchlabí has not yet managed to eliminate all CO2 emissions – that’s a very challenging goal. We decided to address the remaining emissions by buying offset credits. “For 2020, we thus offset combustion of natural gas, which is no longer necessary this year because the Vrchlabí plant has switched to bio-methane. In 2021 we will therefore have to work on eliminating emissions from coolants and company cars. But this is already just a fraction of the total volume, so I believe that we will successfully push ahead by taking incremental steps,” says Grmela.

Pumping cutting oil from the bottom of the tanks of the central filtration station reduces the generation of hazardous waste.

Part of the offsetting in Vrchlabí was done by purchasing credits from two wind farm projects in Taiwan and India. “In addition, our factory cooperates closely with the Krkonoše National Park. Last year we planted 40,000 trees in the vicinity of the plant, and we also cooperate with the park on other biodiversity projects, such as installing birdhouses,” says Jiří Svatý, technical service coordinator at the Vrchlabí plant.

“These activities are not reflected in the CO2 balance because they are not certified, but they show that taking care of our surroundings is important for us,” concludes Grmela, the project coordinator, adding that it is a realistic goal for all ŠKODA plants to be CO2 neutral by 2030.

Modern batteries fitted The batteries in the handling machines were replaced with lithium batteries, which saved energy and reduced CO2 emissions.

“One big issue is the switch from burning natural gas to bio-methane. This will make everything that runs on gas, such as the co-generation units at Vrchlabí and Kvasiny, CO2 neutral. The plan for Mladá Boleslav then involves switching to exclusive combustion of biomass. This should happen around the end of 2025. Today, biomass is burned at Mladá Boleslav along with brown coal. If we manage to complete this change, it will be a major step towards CO2 neutrality in terms of energy generation for the entire company,” says Pavel Grmela, explaining the challenge that lies ahead.

State-of-the-art manufacturing in the foothills

ŠKODA has been manufacturing cars in Vrchlabí since 1946. Starting in 2012, it spent a year and a half modernising the factory, transforming it into a state-of-the-art components production plant. Today, around 1,000 employees at the foot of the Krkonoše Mountains produce around 2,300 DQ 200 dual-clutch direct-shift automatic transmissions every day – 38 per cent are used in ŠKODA vehicles, while 62 per cent are used by other Volkswagen Group brands. The modern production facility uses a number of Industry 4.0 features: for example, a cooperating robot helps to insert the gear-shift pistons, a very sensitive part of gearbox production. And a material handling robot delivers parts to dozens of machines and takes empty packaging back to the warehouse. The plant also benefits from the services of an autonomous transport robot and a digital twin of the production line, which allows the operation to be perfectly fine-tuned, and other artificial intelligence systems