Diageo opens its first carbon-neutral distillery in Kentucky

Brewing giant Diageo has opened its first carbon-neutral distillery, located in Kentucky, that will use renewables and virtual metering technology to avoid the emissions equivalent to around 25,000 vehicles, as it builds towards its net-zero ambition for 2030.

Diageo opens its first carbon-neutral distillery in Kentucky

Diageo unveiled a new commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2030

The carbon-neutral distillery is located in Lebanon, Kentucky with a capacity to produce up to 10 million proof gallons per year. The 72,000 square-foot facility has now started distilling Bulleit Bourbon using electrode boilers that are powered by 100% renewable electricity.

Renewables are used across the entire cooking, distillation, and dry house processes and the facility is designed to ensure that fossils fuels aren’t used across any form of production.

Diageo has partnered with Inter-County Energy and East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) to source renewables from a mix of wind and solar projects. Renewables are used to power electrode boilers, onsite electric vehicles (EVs) and charging, internal and external lighting and equipment. Virtual metering technology has also been introduced to provide better data on water, electricity, and steam usage.

“Two years ago, we set a vision and commitment to build our first carbon-neutral distillery in North America,” Diageo’s president for North America supply Perry Jones said. “Now that the Diageo Lebanon Distillery is operational, I’m incredibly proud of the innovative actions from our teams and partners to fully electrify the facilities and power them with renewable electricity. This is a significant step in our journey to create a low carbon future and be a solution to tackle the ongoing climate crisis.

“In addition to our environmental actions, we have implemented an innovative staffing model at the distillery aimed at accelerating the development of future leaders, ensuring a focus on gender and diversity to help shape the industry.”

The technologies introduced will allow the Diageo Lebanon Distillery to avoid more than 117,000 metric tonnes of carbon emissions annually, the equivalent of taking more than 25,000 cars off the road for a year.

The site will also support 30 full-time jobs and will source non-GMO crops from local farmers.

Net-zero ambition

Last year, Diageo committed to achieving net-zero operational emissions within a decade and to halving its indirect (Scope 3) emissions within the same timeframe, as part of a new ten-year strategy.

The 2030 strategy is aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and commits Diageo to deliver a ‘Decade of Action’ on environmental sustainability, inclusion and diversity and responsible drinking.

On carbon, the headline target is a commitment to achieve net-zero operational emissions through a mix of energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy procurement and generation. Two of Diageo’s distilleries in Scotland are on track to become carbon neutral by the end of 2020, and learnings from these facilities will be applied to other locations.

Diageo believes the first geography in which it will reach net-zero operational emissions will be India. It has set a 2025 target for its Indian operations.

Also included in the strategy is a commitment to halve indirect (Scope 3) emissions. Diageo will support smallholder farmers with training programmes on low-emission methods and trial regenerative farming practices – some of which purport to help land sequester more carbon than farming work emits. The company had previously halved its carbon footprint against a 2007 baseline.

Matt Mace

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