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Renewable energy to power all Novo drug production by next year

  • By next year, all of the electricity Novo Nordisk uses to manufacture its medicines will be generated from renewable energy sources, an achievement the Danish drugmaker says will be a first among drugmakers signed up to a climate initiative called RE100.
  • Novo’s production facilities, which are spread across the globe, account for roughly a third of the company’s carbon emissions. When the drugmaker set out to meet this goal in 2015, 78% of the electricity used by its plants was generated from renewable sources. 
  • Now, with an agreement inked with Swedish power company Vattenfall and another to run its Clayton, North Carolina-based facility with solar power, Novo believes it can hit 100% renewable power in production by early next year, according to a statement this week. 

In drawing close to its 100% renewable power goal, Novo is outpacing its pharmaceutical peers. 

Three other drugmakers signed up to the RE100 initiative, which commits companies that sign up to a goal of using 100% renewable power by set target dates. 

AstraZeneca is also close, expecting to rely on only renewable energy sources for its sites in the U.S. and Europe by next year. Across its global operations, the British pharma is aiming for 2025. 

The larger J&J is transitioning more slowly with a goal of using 100% renewable power by 2050. Biogen, meanwhile, purchases renewable energy certificates that equal all of its electricity use. 

Outside of RE100, renewable power goals are more mixed. GlaxoSmithKline, which currently uses electricity sourced from renewable power for 5% of its needs, plans to raise that figure to 60% by 2030. Stateside, Merck & Co. has set a target of 50% by 2025.

For Novo, agreements signed last year and this month have put the drugmaker’s goal in reach. Since setting its target in 2015, use of renewable energy had stayed relatively consistent at just under 80%, even dropping one percentage point in 2018.

Last year, however, Novo reached a “long-term solution” for renewable power in Europe with Vattenfall, giving Novo’s European production sites power from Danish wind farms beginning next year.

And an investment in a 672-acre solar panel installation in North Carolina will support renewable power use by Novo’s entire U.S. operations next year, too, the company said. 

Drug production is only one source of Novo’s CO2 emissions, however. An annual report from the company showed company cars and business flights accounted for 43% of total emissions from operations and transport. 

One goal met, Novo used the announcement as an opportunity for another: zero CO2 emissions across its operations and transport by 2030.