General Motors has committed to power all its global operations through renewable energy sources by 2050 – up from a small percent today.

The global automaker said it will be generating or sourcing electrical power for 350 facilities in 59 countries through renewable wind, sun, and landfill gas energy during the next 24 years. As for now, GM expects that only 3.8 percent of its electricity will be powered by renewable sources.

“Establishing a 100 percent renewable energy goal helps us better serve society by reducing environmental impact,” GM Chairwoman and CEO Mary Barra said in a corporate statement. “This pursuit of renewable energy benefits our customers and communities through cleaner air while strengthening our business through lower and more stable energy costs.”

As part of that initiative, GM is joining RE100, a global collaborative of 69 companies committed to switching over to 100 percent renewables powering their electricity use. GM will be one of three global automakers in the group, along with India-based Tata Motors and Germany-based BMW Group. Other companies on the membership list include IKEA, Google, HP, and Steelcase.

BMW has committed to sourcing more than two-thirds of its electricity consumed to be powered with renewable energy by 2020.

Amy Davidsen, North America executive director at The Climate Group, a non-profit involved with RE100, thinks GM’s new commitment will catch the attention of the global auto industry and other OEMs.

“GM has already saved millions of dollars by using renewable energy, and like any smart business that recognizes an investment opportunity, they want to seize it fully,” Davidsen said in a statement. “We hope that through this leadership, other heavy manufacturing companies will be inspired to make the switch too.”

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Last year, GM used nine terawatt hours of electricity to build vehicles and power offices, tech centers, and warehouses globally. The Detroit automakers expects to surpass its original goal of using 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020 when two new wind energy projects startup later this year to help power four manufacturing plants.

Rob Threlkeld, GM’s global renewable energy manager, said GM will tap into its experience using renewable energy for more than 20 years. He thinks most of the clean energy will come from wind and solar in the next few years.

The automaker’s biggest challenge will be financial costs, along with policy and regulatory barriers in certain countries. But it is getting better, he said.

“Costs have come down and economics are working,” Threlkeld said.

The Detroit News