Access to abundant, clean, and carbon-free energy for our major operating facilities reduces the emissions impact of our industrial processes. Our mill’s location in McMinnville, Oregon enables us to utilize electricity largely sourced from carbon-free hydroelectric power generated by the Columbia River Dam System. As a result, while 76 percent of the electricity we use is attributed to our steel manufacturing operations, the facility is responsible for only 16 percent of emissions from our electricity use. Likewise, a significant number of our autos and metals recycling operations are located in California, the Pacific Northwest, and British Columbia, which are also largely powered by carbon-free energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, and hydroelectric.
In fiscal 2020, our carbon-free electricity power mix was 93 percent, meaning that we exceeded our target of achieving and maintaining at least 90 percent carbon-free electricity use by the end of fiscal 2025. We remain enrolled in voluntary clean power procurement programs with several of our electricity utility service providers, which allows us to support the use of affordable power from renewable, carbon-free, or low-carbon sources within our communities. In addition, we are exploring the use of advanced battery energy storage systems and technologies for our metal shredding facilities.
Air Quality Compliance
There is an evolving understanding within the metals recycling industry regarding the level of air emissions generated by shredding activities. Through extensive source testing conducted at our Oakland, California metals recycling facility, Schnitzer has taken a leadership position by properly quantifying our air emissions associated with shredding operations and taking appropriate steps to capture, treat, and ultimately reduce and avoid such emissions.
These steps include a multi-year initiative to install enclosures and emission control systems on our shredders. On our largest throughput shredders, we are also installing regenerative thermal oxidizers to treat volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. VOC treatment protects air quality by both reducing the potential for ground-level ozone formation and significantly decreasing GHG emissions.
Enclosures have been used to reduce emissions from other industrial processes but are a relatively new technological application within the metals recycling industry. When added to a shredder and designed in a manner consistent with U.S. EPA protocols, they can capture more than 95 percent of the emissions produced during the shredding process. As these installations are completed over the next several years, they will help us to meet our goal of reducing, by 25 percent, our absolute direct GHG emissions from recycling operations.
Schnitzer continues to help prevent dirt, dust, and debris from impacting local air and water quality by washing and capturing the material from trucks that pass through our metals recycling yards. Custom wheel wash systems remove dirt and dust from truck wheels upon exit from several of our metals recycling facilities, thus reducing the volume of fine particles tracked onto surrounding roadways. We have also invested in paving projects on unimproved surfaces at various locations to further minimize “track-out” potential while also aiding in stormwater management.