Ensuring energy efficiency and conservation throughout our operations is important, as it impacts both our greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint and our cost structure. Energy use costs represent approximately 5 percent of total annual revenues. In 2017, we consumed 7.6 million MWh of total electricity across our over 1,300 Waste Management sites.
We aggressively seek solutions to improve energy efficiency in every facility we operate by implementing a range of technologies and best practices that reduce environmental impacts, improve operational efficiencies and achieve cost savings. These efforts often start with the construction of our facilities, which usually are built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards, regardless of whether we seek certification.
Waste Management is both a supplier and a user of renewable energy, increasingly utilizing sources such as wind, solar, waste heat and landfill gas to power and heat our facilities. We focus our efforts on generation of renewable energy rather than internal use of renewables, since our overall use of electricity is comparatively small.
We look for capacity to generate renewable energy throughout the organization. For example, in 2017, we hosted the generation of 100 MWh of energy from wind, and we will host up to 54 megawatts of landfill-based solar farms by the end of 2018. We continue to look for opportunities to use solar electricity in support of U.S. EPA’s RE-Powering America’s Land initiative, which encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills and mine sites when it is aligned with the community’s vision for the site.
Additional innovations and investments to enhance renewable energy production at our landfills include:
- Technologies to convert materials into ultra-low-sulfur diesel and other transportation fuels and petroleum products
- Small-scale gasification to convert solid biomass feedstock, as well as other combustible feedstocks into a high hydrogen and carbon monoxide-rich synthetic gas
- Thermal chemical conversion of waste materials into advanced biofuels such as ethanol, as well as renewable chemicals
- Accelerated high solids aerobic and anaerobic digestion to produce renewable energy from organics
- Conversion of landfill gas into renewable natural gas used to power vehicles, generate electricity at our landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) facilities, generate power off-site, or use as a heating fuel; and
- Conversion of biomass into organic salts that can be converted into a high-octane gasoline that can then be blended directly into a refiner’s fuel pool, avoiding many of the blending and logistics challenges presented by ethanol.