Five steps toward net zero

Every single step taken to a carbon-neutral energy supply is worth its efforts. The Technology Center Mechatronic Products from Siemens Healthineers in Kemnath, Germany has established several steps on the way to achieve net zero emissions.
Andrea Lutz
Published on May 27, 2024
<p>Every manufacturing company has an impact on the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls for these emissions to be halved by 2030 in order to achieve the <a href="https://1.5 degree Celsius target">1.5 degree Celsius target</a>.[1] Countless companies are now focusing on meeting a net zero target, or achieving a state in which a company’s greenhouse gas emissions have no impact on the climate. This can be achieved by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the value chain and by offsetting the effects of the remaining emissions.</p>
The target aims to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It is calculated from the beginning of industrialization to the year 2100.
<p>However, this is an ambitious goal, since reducing emissions quickly and drastically presents a complex challenge for companies. Logistical, physical, strategic, and economic hurdles must be overcome — as is the case for employees of Siemens Healthineers working at the company’s site in Kemnath, Germany. Despite the challenges, Stefan König, <a href="EHS%20Manager">EHS Manager</a> at Kemnath, believes that “net zero is feasible.”</p>
EHS stands for Environment, Health and Safety. An EHS manager coordinates tasks within the management systems associated with these topics.
<p>The team displays what can be accomplished, and sets a good example for both Siemens Healthineers and other companies. So let’s take a look at the five key steps Kemnath is taking toward net zero and how they are already proving effective.</p>
<p>Science-based targets (SBTs) are scientifically based targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They specify the reductions your industry and your company must achieve in order to effectively limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement.</p>
<p>SBTs help companies develop their own climate-action strategies by specifying clear and measurable targets. In setting SBTs, companies commit to reducing emissions and minimizing their ecological footprint. In Kemnath, Siemens Healthineers is already making good progress on this path.</p>
<p>“We are proud that we’ve already been able to reduce CO<sub>2</sub> emissions by approximately 80 percent compared to 2010, by implementing measures to improve energy efficiency and lower emissions. But we’re by no means finished. The goal for 2030 is to cut our CO<sub>2</sub> emissions by a further 90 percent compared to 2019. And we’ll get closer to that goal by installing heat pumps and substituting natural gas in our processes. The implementation of suitable measures is currently being evaluated.” König describes the site’s achievements so far:</p>
<p>The Kemnath site, which is located in Bavaria, will be further expanded by 2025 with an investment of €60 million. A new administrative building for around 130 employees is currently under construction. This will replace an inefficient predecessor from the 1970s that couldn’t be renovated economically. In addition to offices, the new building will house a training area and a reception area.&nbsp;</p><p>Scheduled to open in 2025, it will feature a carbon-neutral energy system, with a heating and air conditioning system that uses air/water heat pumps. Rooftop photovoltaic panels is being prepared and can be used to cover as much as ten percent of the building’s electricity needs. The remainder will be purchased from green sources. The building’s insulation and optimally sized windows will help ensure very low energy requirements. It will also have fully LED lighting and demand-based regulation of heating and air conditioning. The building’s surroundings will be attractive and climate-friendly: The outdoor spaces will be greened with native plants, natural shading will provide coolness on hot days, and all sealed surfaces will be light so that they reflect heat and reduce interior temperatures.</p>
<p>Roland Höller, Head of the Green Team in Kemnath, says everything will be done “just like at home.” In other words, by using rainwater cleverly, saving energy on outdoor lighting, and weighing up the need for every electrical system and component. The building is another area where “many little ideas contribute to the big picture and everyone is aware of what’s needed,” says Höller, adding that everyone in Kemnath is “very proactive.”</p>
<p>There are several intermediate goals on the path to net zero. One important milestone is switching from natural gas to green electricity for manufacturing. A major change like this requires considerable advance planning, including developing and installing the appropriate infrastructure. The Green Team is continually refining the measures needed to make this transition a success.</p>
<p>Eco-efficiency in production means using as few resources as possible to manufacture a product. But how can you gain transparent information about the resource use and climate impact of highly complex medtech products? One concept that can help here is the “CO<sub>2</sub> equivalent,” a measure that is quantified by multiplying the greenhouse gas emissions by their Global Warming Potential (GWP).</p>
<p>Michael Ott, Head of Technology Catalyst and Sustainability at Technology Center Mechatronic Products Kemnath, explains an important principle for production in the climate-change era: “Eco-efficiency means manufacturing products either in a carbon-neutral way or with fewer CO<sub id="isPasted">2</sub> emissions. The product itself becomes eco-effective when we recycle it at the end of its lifecycle.” This cradle-to-cradle (C2C) principle was developed by Professor Michael Braungart, who is collaborating with Siemens Healthineers in Kemnath. Braungart warns of dilemmas that could arise when improving processes: “We do the wrong things perfectly, and thus only perfectly wrong.”[3] As a way out of this dilemma, he describes his approach for achieving a consistent circular economy:</p>
<p>“Effectiveness means doing things in such a way that I can close the cycles in term of ecology. And efficiency means that I simply do things with fewer resources,” explains Ott. Ideally, you can combine both — by establishing closed loops with a minimal use of resources. Ott notes that “being efficient can mean I simply produce less waste. But there still will be waste. That means it's important to be both efficient <em>and</em> effective.” As part of the company’s cooperation with Braungart, selected products from the portfolio are analyzed in Kemnath to identify materials and bonding technologies that are not conform to the C2C principle. New C2C-compliant solutions are then developed collaboratively.</p>
<p>One example can be found in the 3D-printing center: Here, individual metal or plastic components can now be manufactured onsite for use in production. This is an important step toward applying the C2C principle; it will also make Kemnath less dependent on suppliers and enable the company to retain full control over the resources and materials it uses.</p>
<p>König explains that “the reference point for further reducing CO<sub>2</sub> emissions is already very low, due to the reduction measures we’ve already implemented. Our goal now is to install heat pumps to replace the natural gas we are currently using to generate heat and to power our processes.”</p>
<p>If the team succeeds in making Kemnath carbon-neutral by 2030, the natural gas still required for surface technology today will be replaced by green electricity, ideally produced in part by photovoltaic panels on the hall roofs. The team is also aiming to achieve optimal handling of recyclable materials. Even now, Kemnath sends no plastic waste away from the site; it is thermally used onsite.&nbsp;</p><p>In the future, materials are to be recycled wherever possible. In order to achieve these goals, possible investments in the double-digit million range are being assessed right now. Siemens Healthineers has pledged to be proactive in its environmental efforts. By 2030, a more decarbonized and more circular value chain will be created every year. The Kemnath site is serving as a role model in this endeavor.&nbsp;</p>

By Andrea Lutz
Andrea Lutz is a journalist and business trainer specialized on medical topics, technology, and healthcare IT. She lives in Nuremberg, Germany.