Building Resiliency through Alternative Energy
Contributed by Mike Whitlatch
As an industry leader in fuel and energy conservation, UPS is faced with a complex challenge every day. How to deliver more while using less? Their Rolling Laboratory of more than 8,500 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles is one way they are delivering on company sustainability goals. This specialized fleet drives more than 1 million miles each business day and has traveled more than 1 billion miles since 2000. Click the image to the left for a closer look at UPS Sustainability.
In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, Americans across the country and in Puerto Rico experienced widespread fuel shortages and skyrocketing fuel prices, which limited their ability to quickly get back on their feet and begin rebuilding their lives. At UPS, our experience was different. After more than a decade of investing in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles, our diverse fleet has actually improved our operational resiliency by reducing our dependence on gasoline and diesel.
Times like this remind us about the need for more resilient and diverse energy supply chains, so we can be better prepared when disaster strikes. As the VP of Global Energy & Procurement at UPS, I am responsible for sourcing all of the fuel and energy for our fleet of more than 100,000 trucks and 230 aircraft, so this is something I think about every day.
As a global logistics provider, our business depends on enormous amounts of energy to meet our customers’ logistics needs efficiently and effectively. This requires stable and affordable access to fuel and refueling infrastructure on a large scale.
UPS has long been recognized as a leader in using alternative energy sources, going as far back as 1933 when we first began using electric vehicles in our delivery fleet. That same commitment continues today.
Most recently, we set new enterprise-wide goals that will help bolster the long-term resiliency of our fuel supply chain and reduce our dependence on conventional petroleum-based energy sources. Our most ambitious goal is to reduce absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 12 percent throughout our global ground operations by 2025. This means that even as our business grows and delivery volume increases, our overall emissions will decrease.
For a company that drives trucks and flies planes, the use of renewable energy is critical to reducing emissions. As a result, we have established three targets to spur the use of renewable energy sources throughout our operations. By 2025, we plan to source 40% of all ground fuel from sources other than conventional gasoline and diesel, nearly double what we used in 2016. We’re also aiming for 25% of total electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025. And, by 2020, 25% of our annual vehicle purchases will be alternative fuel or advanced technology vehicles.
Through our Rolling Laboratory, we’ve been exploring the use of alternative fuels and technologies that reduce our dependence on petroleum products while also ensuring consistent fuel supply and reducing emissions. This specialized fleet now comprises more than 8,500 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and drives more than 1 million miles – the equivalent of 40 trips around the world – every business day.
Through the Rolling Lab, our engineers are able to test and evaluate lower-emissions solutions in real-world operating conditions across a range of urban, suburban and rural environments. We then use this real-world data to optimize solutions that can be deployed at scale.
For example, we’ve found electric vehicles and electrically-assisted bikes work best in high-density city centers while compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas provide the range needed for longer-haul trips. Our natural gas infrastructure allows us to seamlessly transition to renewable bio-methane from landfills, wastewater treatment, and other sources. We’re also utilizing advanced biofuels using hydro-processing and other advanced refining technologies. These technologies utilize renewable feedstocks to produce fuels that are chemically equivalent to petroleum-based fuels and compatible with existing engines and fueling infrastructure. We are proud to be the nation’s largest user of Renewable Diesel and Renewable Natural Gas in the shipping industry.
This commitment to developing and testing alternative energy sources doesn’t stop with our fleet. We’re also accelerating the use of renewable energy to power our facilities. Earlier this year, we announced an $18 million investment to add 10 megawatts in on-site solar, which will expand our solar capacity nearly five-fold. Solar and wind power, coupled with large-scale battery storage and smart micro-grid technology, provide exciting opportunities to manage our growing energy demand and transition to renewable energy sources.
Our Rolling Lab started as an experiment and has become an ecosystem of innovation and progress shaped by collaboration with suppliers, policy-makers, and other stakeholders. We will continue to apply our logistics expertise and leverage our scale to drive technology, market, and infrastructure improvements that strengthen resiliency while advancing sustainable fuels and technologies.