$44M in Energy Efficiency Savings Whets AT&T's Appetite for More

$44M in Energy Efficiency Savings Whets AT&T's Appetite for More

When John Schinter joined AT&T in 2009 as the company's first energy director, he was charged with revamping the way AT&T manages energy consumption and developing programs to reduce use.

In 2010, the telecommunications giant implemented a whopping 4,200 projects aimed at improving energy efficiency, AT&T announced today. The effort has generated $44 million in annualized energy savings, setting the stage for an even more aggressive corporate approach to energy management and conservation moving forward.

"The good news is success breeds investment," Schinter said in a phone interview. "Based on the success in 2010, we're actually ramping up projects in 2011."

Schinter declined to disclose the amount the company invested in the more than 4,000 projects to realize the savings, but said each had a payback period of one to four years.

He pointed to the company's Energy Scorecard as a driving force behind the proliferation of efficiency projects. First rolled out in 2009, the tool is used to grade the performance of the company's 500 most energy-intensive facilities, each of which has its own energy champion. The scorecard emphasizes action, not just consumption, with credit awarded for the types of past and present projects and identification of future projects. AT&T is in the process of rolling out the scorecard to its remaining facilities.

Training also played a large role. The company committed to having all 500 energy champions Energy Star trained by the end of 2010, a number Schinter expects to grow significantly in 2011.

Lighting represented one of the most common efficiency opportunities, Schinter said, including swapping out incandescent bulbs for LEDs at more than 1,100 cell sites. Lighting was also the focus of an internship through the Environmental Defense Fund's Climate Corps program, which sent a business school student on the hunt for energy savings at AT&T.

"We have a lot of technology space, unlike a typical office space," Schinter said. "In our environment, there is a lot of equipment. We have technicians come in and go out at all times of the day and may not know when lights were turned on. With EDF, we looked at when the lighting systems are running, how often space was occupied, and made sure lighting was running only when needed."

By studying occupancy patterns, Climate Corps Fellow Jen Snook found that sensors could cut lighting-related energy use in some facilities by 80 percent.

The company also installed power management software on 169,000 computers, saving AT&T $614,000 a year.

AT&T has set a goal of reducing its energy intensity, based on kilowatt house per terabyte of data carried on its network, in 2010 by 15 percent below 2009 levels. Overall results will be announced in the spring.

Helping AT&T's efforts is a generally heavy focus on energy efficiency across the industry, said Schinter, a former president of Global Energy and Sustainability for commercial real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

"There are an awful lot of incentives across the country promoting energy efficiency," Schinter said. "We will take advantage of those as best we can, and focus on places where our electricity rates are the highest. We'll also look at projects with the biggest impact on cost and greenhouse gas reduction."

Scaling up these kinds of projects across an enterprise as large as AT&T requires the collective efforts of hundreds or even thousands of employees, Schinter said. The task can be made easier when there is buy-in from the top of the company, in AT&T's case, its CEO.

"My biggest piece of advice is once you establish a goal, characterize it as an aspiration," he said. "It doesn't just happen, it takes investment, study. It's very important to make sure you can get alignment of the number of people needed to make this happen."