Resource efficiency

88%

Percentage of our fully consolidated industrial facilities certified to ISO 14001

95%

Percentage of ash and gypsum from our power stations classified as a by-product or recovered

5bn cubic meters

Amount of total cooling water withdrawn of which 99.4% is returned to its source

Consume less, reuse more

Uniper produces energy from finite resources like natural gas and coal. Water is another important resource as it is used to cool power plants, generate electricity, store energy at pumped-storage hydro plants, and produce steam for industrial purposes.

It is important to us that we use natural resources efficiently and responsibly. It affects not only our operating efficiency, cost margins, market position, and the public’s perception of us but also the communities near our assets.
We defined long-term commitments for the topic of resource efficiency:

  • Reduce waste, prevent land pollution, and promote environmentally responsible mining.
  • Work with our contractors, suppliers, and industrial customers to adopt a life-cycle approach to protect the environment, use resources efficiently, and market our by-products.

These commitments support SDG 7 and 12:

The material topic resource efficiency encompasses six subtopics: flexible and efficient power plants, energy savings, resource consumption, by-products, waste management, and water management.

Flexible and efficient power plants

Our generation fleet in Europe is technologically advanced and highly efficient; our fleet in Russia is one of the country’s most modern. In recent years, we’ve invested in power-plant upgrades and increased plant efficiency and availability. Going forward, we intend to continue to pursue operational excellence. We implemented several projects in 2017 to make our power plants more flexible and efficient. The projects and their contributions are described under the appropriate subtopic, such as energy savings and water management.

To mitigate environmental risks, we establish and maintain dedicated management systems. The majority of our facilities have environmental management systems (EMS) certified to ISO 14001, the internationally recognized standard for environmental management. In 2017 many of these facilities were certified to the most recent and more stringent version of this standard (ISO 14001: 2015), which has made our EMS more robust.

At year-end 2017, 88% of our fully consolidated industrial facilities were certified to ISO 14001, an increase from 83% at year-end 2016 due to the certification of several more of our power plants in Germany to ISO 14001: 2015. We plan to obtain ISO14001 certification for our remaining facilities in Germany in 2018. All of our fully consolidated industrial facilities in other countries are certified to ISO 14001.

Energy savings

The energy management systems of all of our fossil-fueled power plants in Germany were recertified to ISO 50001 in 2017.

New or amended legislation can change environmental compliance requirements for Uniper. Important examples of such legislation are the EU Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU, which governs energy efficiency and energy services, and the EU Industrial Emission Directive, which established new emission standards that conventional power plants must meet by 2021 unless they obtain a formal derogation.

We implemented several projects in 2017 to make our power plants more efficient.

In 2017 we completed a major project to upgrade Cottam Development Centre, a combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) in central England, to increase its combined-cycle efficiency from 55.2% to 57.8%. This will reduce the plant’s carbon intensity. The power output was also increased from 405 MW to 435 MW. We estimate that the plant will now emit 27,655 metric tons, or roughly 4%, less carbon per year.

Gönyü, a CCGT in Hungary, conducted a project in 2017 to improve its efficiency and capacity in warm weather. When the ambient temperature rises, the airflow rate decreases, reducing the turbine’s power output per unit of fuel. The installation of a chiller in the air intake will increase the airflow rate, thereby making Gönyü more efficient in the summer and saving us up to €100,000 per year. Beside the chiller other solutions were also evaluated.

Resource consumption

We aim to use resources efficiently and get as much energy as possible from every unit of fuel. This shrinks our ecological footprint, reduces our costs, and makes us less exposed to potential supply-chain risks. The risks include the possibility of human rights violations along our supply chain, political uncertainty in some countries where we purchase natural gas, and the adverse impact of biomass cultivation on biodiversity. The opportunities consist mainly of synergies with our suppliers and customers.

Procurement is a key lever for optimizing our resource use. Our Global Origination Desk, specializing in gas and LNG, together with the Coal & Freight Desk conducts centralized fuel procurement for our operations. It works closely with the procurement teams at our power plants so that each plant has the right amount of fuel when required, thereby ensuring cost-effectiveness and preventing unnecessary inventory.

Increasingly, we aim for a life-cycle approach for our operations. Examples include projects for the optimization of our industrial customers’ energy consumption in Europe and Russia, and the recovery of gob piles at former coal mines in the United States to reduce environmental impacts together with their owners. Examples include projects for the optimization of our industrial customers’ energy consumption in Europe and Russia and, together with the mine owners, the recovery of gob piles at former coal mines in the United States to reduce environmental impacts.

Fuel consumed by our generation fleet

Asset management and modernization also help us use resources efficiently. For example, almost twice as much energy can be derived from hard coal today than in 1950. And more improvements are possible. We also consume less coal because some of our plants operate below their full capacity and because others have been sold or have been decommissioned after reaching the end of their useful operating life. Our European coal fleet used 16% less coal in 2017 than in 2016, continuing a trend that emerged in 2015.

Our coal-fired power stations consumed 13 million tons of coal and lignite in 2017, just under 2.6 million tons less than in 2016, mainly because they generated less power, primarily in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany and Russia.

An integrated management system based on our Physical Asset Policy and HSSE & Sustainability Policy helps us further reduce our resource consumption. These policies include provisions that specify in detail how we use resources.

We plan to carry out plant upgrades at Unipro, our power generation subsidiary in Russia. Improvements are already under way. For instance, the construction of a new boiler house at Smolenskaya will improve the plant’s economics, fuel efficiency, and the reliability of its heat supply. The project is at an early stage, so we can’t predict its potential positive impact on the plant’s emissions.

Power plant by-products

In addition to procuring fuels, we also trade them and market a number of by-products from our power stations. In accordance with applicable regulations, our fossil-fueled power stations are equipped flue-gas cleaning systems. These systems capture sulfur compounds and other environmentally harmful materials. We design our plant processes in so that the by-products of flue gas cleaning are of a sufficient quality to be marketed as coal combustion products (CCPs).

Our power stations have storage facilities and loading equipment, enabling us to meet our customers’ CCP needs efficiently. BauMineral GmbH, a wholly owned Uniper subsidiary, markets our CCPs in Germany and the Netherlands.

When customers use our CCPs (pulverised fly ash, furnace bottom ash, and gypsum) as building materials, this displaces the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be emitted from the manufacture of such materials. With approaches like these, we’re making our raw material supply chains more sustainable and independent.

Pulverised fly ash (PFA), furnace bottom ash (FBA), and gypsum

We produced 1.9 million metric tons of pulverised fly ash and furnace bottom ash in 2017 (2016: 2.1 million metric tons) and sold or recovered 92.8% of it.

In 2017 our subsidiary BauMineral received environmental product certifications for the PFA and FBA it markets. Heyden power plant in west-central Germany served as the reference plant for the application process. The data showed that, compared with mining virgin raw materials, PFA and FBA’s environmental impact is negligible.

The skeleton and foundation of FLOAT, our new office building in Düsseldorf’s Medienhafen, is held together with EFA-Füller®, certified PFA supplied by BauMineral. EFA-Füller® can replace up to 50% of the cement in concrete. And since cement production accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions, PFA makes construction substantially more sustainable.

Gypsum is a by-product of the desulfurization process in coal-fired power stations. In 2017 we produced 0.9 million metric tons of it (similar to the amount in 2016). We sold as by-products or recovered 99.8% of it. Our by-product gypsum replaces virgin-mined gypsum and is mainly used for the manufacture of plasterboard and other gypsum-based building materials.

Waste management

We’re also shrinking our environmental footprint by avoiding waste or reusing it. Waste results from our operations and our projects to dismantle assets. We always try to reuse and recycle as much waste as possible. But our primary objective is not to produce any waste in the first place, which is why we operate our power plants as efficiently as possible. This reduces fuel consumption and thus the resulting waste.

We produced 0.21 million metric tons of operational waste in 2017, which was a slight increase from the previous year (2016: 0.18 million metric tons).

Radioactive waste (Sweden)

We operate nuclear power stations in Sweden which produce low-, intermediate-, and high-level radioactive waste. This waste totaled 843 metric tons in 2017, 188 tons more than 2016, but with a lower proportion of high-level radioactive waste. We have an enormous responsibility to ensure this waste is handled, stored, and disposed of appropriately. That’s why safety, radiation and environmental protection are a high priority for us.

Nuclear waste is managed in accordance with Swedish law. Nuclear power companies in Sweden established the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) in the 1970s. SKB’s mission is to manage and dispose of all radioactive waste from Swedish nuclear power stations in a way that ensures maximum safety for people and the environment.

From carbon to chemicals

Our experts in carbon-capture technologies are exploring creative and profitable ways to reduce our climate impact. Carbon dioxide isn’t just a greenhouse gas. If captured and upgraded in a smart way, it can also add value.

We’re currently focusing on processes using photosynthesis to transform carbon dioxide into bulk chemicals or even fuels.

Helmut Rode, New business models & pilots (Innovation)

Water management

Water availability is crucial to our business. Our hydroelectric stations are situated on numerous large and small bodies of water in Germany and Sweden. To produce power, they need sufficient water flow in rivers or sufficient water levels in reservoirs. In addition, our conventional power stations draw cooling water from rivers and lakes.
We’re committed to reducing our environmental impacts and to using water responsibly. We do this by complying with all applicable laws, regulations, and permit conditions and by utilizing internal controls designed to minimize water-related risks. Water efficiency and flexibility are key capabilities to help enhance business resilience and development at our existing and future operations.

Total water withdrawal and discharge

In 2017 we withdrew 5 billion m3 of water for our cooling operations (mainly sea water), a decrease of around 1.4 billion m3 (2016: 6.4 billion m3). The main reason was that some of our plants in the Netherlands and Sweden operated less frequently. We discharge a large proportion of the water we withdraw back to its source. As a result, 99.4% of the water was returned in 2017.

We carried out several modernization projects in 2017 in the area of water.

The cooling water discharged into the Danube by Gönyü, our CCGT in Hungary, is allowed to be up to 7 degrees Centigrade warmer than the river water. Optimizing the control of the main cooling water pumps saves 50,000-150,000 cubic meters of water per day and results €100,000 to 200,000 in water usage fees per year. Additionally, this plant modification results in electricity consumption savings as well in the range of €100,000 to 150,000 per year.

Émile Huchet, one of our power stations in France, has two circulation water pumps for cooling. Previously, when a unit was offline, one of the pumps ran to cool auxiliary equipment, such as the lube oil tank and generator. In 2017 we installed a small sump pump which can provide enough water to cool the auxiliary equipment. As a result, the main circulation pumps can be shut off just six hours after a unit goes offline. This simple change reduces the two units’ power consumption by 1.4 MW when idle and is expected to save about €480,000 over the next three years.

In 2017 participants from our graduate program developed a tool and a set of detailed guidelines for water-management best practices. The tool and guidelines will be initially adopted by our CCGT fleet in 2018 and then reviewed to determine whether to use them in other parts of our business as well.

In developing our business outside Europe, where water scarcity issues are more significant, we must further integrate water management practices into our fuel procurement and asset operations in order to mitigate risks and seize opportunities.