Climate Corps 2011: How Facebook is Friending Energy Efficiency

MOVE FAST AND BREAK THINGS.

DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WEREN'T AFRAID?

These bold-lettered signs are all over Facebook's Palo Alto, CA headquarters, and they're a perfect crash course on the culture here. Relentless experimentation ("hacking," as it's proudly called) is the heart of the company: come up with a good idea, recruit smart people to help, throw something together, keep improving on it. Welcome to the force that's built the world's biggest social network.

Walking around during my first day, as one of three EDF Climate Corps fellows working to identify energy-saving solutions for Facebook this summer, I feel both exhilarated and anxious. The three of us Climate Corps fellows definitely intend to move fast and fearlessly -- the company is relocating to a new campus soon, with design and construction decisions happening daily. But how quickly can we find out what programs are already in place, who the resident experts are, what needs to be measured, and when decisions are being finalized? And what does energy efficiency in office buildings mean for a young, growing company with employees who work around the clock?

Fortunately, EDF has provided an invaluable tool to get us started: its new "Barriers to Energy Efficiency/Company On-Boarding Conversation Guide" that every Climate Corps fellow will fill out upon starting at his or her host company. Last week, the Climate Corps fellow at PNC also blogged about her experience with this thorough questionnaire on corporate energy efficiency.

It's a classic EDF win-win project: collectively, this year's 57 Fellows will provide a snapshot of how Corporate America approaches energy efficiency, while highlighting common hurdles. At the same time, each of us gets a roadmap for orienting at our host companies so we can start asking the right questions from day one:

  • Does the company have an energy efficiency manager? If so, at what level, with what kind of decision-making power? If not, which departments are involved in energy efficiency, and how are people incentivized to take initiative?
  • What's an acceptable payback period, and what kind of projects qualify?

Within an hour of sitting down with our supervisor with this document, we have contact info written next to every topic area, an informal organizational chart of who influences energy efficiency decisions, and a good understanding of how efficiency projects get financed. (We've scrawled plenty of question marks on there too, but done is better than perfect.) Later that afternoon, we finally get a moment to work at our new desks. But not for long: One of us checks the computers' energy settings, which default to "maximum performance" instead of "power saver." And these big LCD monitors seem a lot brighter than they need to be....