India’s fight against pollution has a new hero in Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s top automaker by volume. Toyota’s Bidadi plant near India’s software hub of Bengaluru has been declared the greenest among 56 plants run globally by the Japanese company.
At least 56 million units of energy, or 68% of the total 83 million needed every year by the India plant (situated in the small industrial town of Bidadi on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway), come from renewable sources such as solar and wind energy, which are either generated in-house or purchased from an external source. Toyota’s factory in northern France is at a distant second, deriving 35% of its energy needs from green sources.
Remarkably, France is one of the biggest propagators of climate change worldwide, and India and China are seen as the most polluting nations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is targeting about 40% of cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030.
The Bidadi factory is now a “model plant” for the company’s operations worldwide, said Raju B. Ketkale, senior vice-president and director of product design and development, purchases and quality assurance, at Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd. “Other manufacturers in India also employ renewable energy at similar levels (as France),” Ketkale claimed.
Toyotal Kirloskar now plans to add 7 megawatts of capacity by the end of 2020, which would take the share of renewable energy to 80%, Ketkale said.
Using solar power has benefited Toyota Kirloskar, as energy costs fell by about 20% in the past year, he said. The mandate is to reach zero-CO2 levels by 2035, which Ketkale believes can be achieved by 2025, a decade in advance.
Toyota made around 8.9 million vehicles at its 56 plants in 28 countries and regions. These vehicles are sold in 170 countries. Toyotal Kirloskar produced 152,000 units in the year ended 31 March.
A major factor that led to such high levels of renewable energy usage was partnering with Gurugram-based renewable energy firm ReNew Power Ventures Ltd under an operating expense model, where Toyota Kirloskar did not incur any capital expenditure but provided ReNew with land to set up solar panels, with an installed capacity of 8.3MW in two phases, a majority of which was completed in July last year.
With a daily requirement of about 38MW, Toyota Kirloskar utilizes all the energy generated, with a marginal amount to spare, which is sold to the local government. Three solar plants in Karnataka also contribute about 18MW each day.
Solar panels have an average efficiency of up to 25% of installed capacity. Globally, Toyota has adopted a so-called Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, which aims to cut environmental impact in all vehicle-related activities to zero by 2050.
Other initiatives taken by Toyota in the 2050 challenge include optimizing water usage and promoting recycling. Accordingly, Toyota Kirloskar has minimized purchasing water from external sources to about two months a year from about 10 months in 2014 by leveraging rainwater harvesting and recycling 65% of its water usage.
The auto maker is aiming to become water surplus by 2020. Analysts say the use of solar power in manufacturing is an attractive proposition, given lower costs. “It’s ultimately a commercial decision. What matters is the cost of producing power, which has come down to ₹3 per unit for solar energy. It is definitely an attractive proposition,” said Santosh Kamath, partner and lead for renewable energy at consulting firm KPMG India.