Meet the Sustainability Leader: Brau Union Österreich AG – Energy Management

With entries soon closing for edie's revamped 2019 Sustainability Leaders Awards, this new feature series will showcase the achievements of the 2018 winners, revealing their secrets to success. Up next: our 2018 Energy Management winners, Brau Union Österreich AG.

Some of the most popular beers in Austria are now carbon-neutral, thanks to the efforts of Brau Union Österreich’s (BUÖ) Göss Brewery that is powered by 100% renewable energy. BUÖ is Heineken’s operating company in Austria, and the Göss brewery produces 1.4 million bottles of Gösser zero carbon beer every day, helping to achieve Heineken’s wider commitment to a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions from production by 2020.

Converting the brewery to run on renewables has been a gradual process, but one that has resulted in significant efficiency savings along the way. The transformation has enabled the brewery to slash its CO2 emissions from approximately 3,000 tonnes per year to zero.

The brewery’s energy requirements are now met through a mix of hydroelectric power, remote thermal energy generated by biomass, recovery of radiant heat released during the brewing process, a 1,500 square metre solar photovoltaic system, and renewable energy from a recently constructed spent grain fermentation system.

As the conversion to carbon-neutral required many stages, BUÖ decided to adopt a phased approach. The first milestone involved producing biogas from wastewater back in 1997, then in 2003, the brewer set itself the goal of becoming the world’s first major green brewery with the aim of producing beer using only renewable energy and reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuels to zero.

In 2006, it started producing energy from dried spent grains, then the following year engaged in district heating. Initially, 10% of the brewery’s heat demand was met by the local district heating scheme, now 40% of the brewery’s heat requirement comes from waste heat discharged from a neighbouring sawmill. Meanwhile, 90% of the waste heat generated in the brewing process is used to heat water.

In addition, BUÖ has installed a new type of boiling system to help save electricity and water and 1,500 square metres of solar panels. Water consumption has been slashed by 80% through the introduction of a semi-dry belt lubrication method in the bottle filling area. Dry belt lubrication also offers additional advantages from an employee perspective – the filling conditions are more hygienic and the danger of slipping is reduced, improving occupational health and safety.

In October 2015, the brewery’s final milestone was to complete the building of a new beer grain fermentation plant. By processing spent grains, residues of filters and other residual waste to biogas, more than 1,200 tonnes of CO2 are saved each year. Any energy generated from these residues is used to generate steam for the brewery, while excess volumes are converted into electricity. The residues from the fermentation process – a by-product of the new plant – can be turned into a quality fertiliser.

In terms of specific resource efficiency reductions that have been achieved through these measures, brewery water consumption has reduced to 3.1 hl/hl beer, energy consumption to 69.5 MJ/hl beer and CO2 emissions to 1.9 kg CO2e/hl beer. Together with the other companies in the Heineken family, BUÖ has developed a CO2 footprint model that calculates the greenhouse gas emissions over the entire value chain of a beer producer, to help identify any hotspots so that they can be addressed.

On a wider level, the brewery’s renewables drive is helping to deliver social value, as the local community benefits – for example, any surplus renewable energy generated by the brewery is used for public purposes. Project work has also had a positive economic impact for the region, helping to generate around 30 local green jobs including roles responsible for controlling the installed renewable technologies.

The brewery has since picked up a number of awards for its efforts – these include Energy Globe Austria, the EU Sustainable Energy Award, including the EU Citizens Choice Award and the IEA SHC Solar Award. All this has also helped generate positive media attention and raised stakeholder awareness. According to a 2016 study, for example, 30% of Austrians thought that Gösser was the most sustainable beer brand in Austria.

For Heineken, the Göss brewery shows how a brewery can demonstrate leadership on sustainability – the understanding gained from this process is being used in similar initiatives across the company’s portfolio. In 2016, Roland Verstappen, Heineken’s director for public & government affairs, was quoted as saying: “We are pursuing sustainability initiatives in all of our breweries – but the Göss brewery is the stand out example of this work and our commitment to sustainability.”

What the judges said: “This was an excellent entry, demonstrating an ongoing drive to improve energy and carbon efficiency. Brau Union has shown real innovation and leadership, along with the delivery of direct performance improvement, in a demanding production environment. This approach also leverages the opportunity for cultural change and supports the product fundamentally, with an integrated organisational message around sustainability and efficiency.”

edie’s 2019 Sustainability Leaders Award

Now in their 12th year, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards have undergone a major revamp, with a host of new categories and judges, a new Awards venue, and a new Mission Possible theme – making 6 February 2019 the biggest night of the sustainable business calendar.

The entry deadline for the 2019 Sustainability Leaders Awards is Friday, 14 September 2018. The Awards will then take place on the night of 6 February 2019 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 


Matt Mace

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