Medtronic: Saving Energy, Protecting the Planet
No time to waste
The science is clear: our planet is warming at an alarming rate with grave and global consequences. From the wildfires in Australia to increased storm events, the climate crisis is here and now and requires urgent action from us all. Medtronic recognizes that words alone can’t fix climate change. It will require bold action, transparency, and accountability. Our goal? To become carbon neutral by 2030. Simply put, we are aiming for net zero carbon emissions from our global operations, which includes a vast network of manufacturing sites where we make our life-saving medical devices and technologies. Achieving carbon neutrality is no easy feat, but the environmental benefits justify the journey. Over the next decade, we will cut our carbon emissions by an amount that is approximately equal to how much would be generated by 80,000 U.S. homes over the same time period. By reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, we are shrinking our carbon footprint one step at a time.
Minimizing our carbon footprint
“It’s essential that we do our part to fight climate change and make sure we’re a part of the solution.” Anita Tuch, Vice President of Global Operational Risk at Medtronic.
Caring for our planet and its people is not only the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. By embracing sustainability, companies create healthier workplaces, plan thoughtful expansions and development, improve risk management, and realize cost savings. And it’s what our employees expect from us. As a global citizen, Medtronic is constantly striving to curb our carbon emissions. Over the past seven years, Medtronic cut our operational carbon emissions by 36% and aims to reduce them by 50% or more over by 2025 in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. We will use tools like virtual power purchase agreements to buy long-term supplies of clean energy to further reduce our greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. Cutting our operational carbon footprint by 100% is an aggressive goal but fighting climate change is urgent business.
Greener energy, cleaner energy
Increasing the use of clean energy is one of the most powerful ways companies can combat climate change, either by producing that energy themselves or buying it from local power providers. At Medtronic, we do both. Fuel cell technology now generates cleaner energy at several of our facilities around the world. By converting natural gas fuel and air into electrical energy without combustion, fuel cells are cleaner than traditional gas or diesel engines. Our company has increased renewable energy use by more than 10% over the past decade. Going forward, we plan on increasing our investments in hydroelectricity, solar, wind, and geothermal energy whenever possible. One way we will do this is by purchasing renewable energy certificates (REC’s), which are market instruments guaranteeing clean energy has been generated on behalf of a company and sent to the electrical grid. Medtronic has been active in the REC market since 2009 and plans to expand these investments as part of our plan to become operationally carbon neutral by 2030.
Cogeneration, also known as combined heat and power, merges the production of usable heat and electricity into a single process that can substantially reduce carbon emissions and energy costs. Recently, a new co-generation unit was installed at a Medtronic facility in Mirandola, Italy. Once fully operational, the new unit will produce about 7.5 million kilowatt hours per year, reducing the facility’s reliance on the local power grid.
Less energy is the best energy
Using energy efficiently is one of the cleanest, quickest, and most cost-effective ways to extend today's energy supply into the future. Within the medical device industry, manufacturing facilities typically use the most energy. At Medtronic, we make sure all our equipment at those facilities runs efficiently as possible to minimize energy consumption. We have created significant savings through projects like replacing all our older, less efficient lights at commercial and manufacturing facilities with energy efficient LED lights. So far, we’ve replaced over 150,000 bulbs across 26 global sites and saved over $3 million annually.
Fuel cells: No combustion required
Two fuel cells were recently installed at a Medtronic facility in North Haven, Connecticut, where the company manufactures surgical equipment. Once fully operational, the fuel cells will produce a combined 4 megawatts (MW), which will meet about 80 percent of the facility’s energy needs. The technology is expected to save $2.3 million per year and reduce carbon emissions by 4,000 metric tons per year when compared to buying energy from the local grid. “Fuel cells will supply a steady source of energy for our facility,” said Chris Sirois, facility director. “That’s really critical during the summer months when demand naturally goes up and the grid becomes strained. From an operational standpoint, the efficiency we expect to gain with these two units is significant.”
Harnessing the sun at Puerto Rico’s largest, private solar farm
In 2017, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, mangling a new solar plant under construction at a Medtronic manufacturing plant. Just as some of the rebuilding work at the site was wrapping up, a massive earthquake rocked the island in early 2020. Not long after that, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, dealing the renewable energy project yet another setback. Today, however, our 5 MW plant is up and running, producing clean energy for the company’s Juncos facility and sending surplus power back to the local grid for community use. It is currently the largest private solar farm on the island and the largest solar installation at a Medtronic facility. “It has been a roller coaster ride, for sure,” said David Alemar Olivera, the facility manager at the Medtronic site in Juncos. “But my team never lost focus and worked through some very difficult circumstances. We understand the importance of this project and what it means for our company, Puerto Rico, and its people.”
We know that our health is directly tied to the health of the environment. And alleviating pain, restoring health, and extending life is the very cornerstone of our Mission. By reducing our carbon footprint, Medtronic is investing in the health of our company, our people, and our planet.