Climate Corps 2010: Dialing Up Energy Savings at Verizon

EDF Climate Corps

Climate Corps 2010: Dialing Up Energy Savings at Verizon

While millions of people spent the weekend watching PGA golfers go for the green at Pebble Beach, or World Cup players chase a soccer ball across the green in South Africa, I began a search for a different kind of green. You know -- the kind of green that you put in your wallet. I recently began my EDF Climate Corps fellowship with Verizon in search of energy efficiency savings that could provide the kind of green we all understand. It is also the kind of green that adds to the planet’s bank account instead of draining it.

After an extensive training from EDF on the best practices of corporate energy efficiency, I approached Verizon’s LEED certified offices in Basking Ridge, NJ, ready to make a positive contribution to the bottom line. I knew that my task at hand would not be easy, since Verizon has already made significant energy efficiency improvements over the past decade, earning awards and recognition for their efforts. I found myself looking up at the lighting fixtures, checking to see when the lights were on in conference rooms and looking for occupancy sensors in the bathrooms. Often times, energy savings comes from asking simple questions like “Why do you do it that way?” or “What if we tried a different approach?”

Although energy efficiency represents a huge opportunity, I’m aware that it is not “top of mind” for most businesses and consumers. It does not involve new or exotic forms of energy that require a PhD in physics to decipher. However, energy efficiency represents the largest, cheapest and cleanest energy source for our energy-hungry economy. According to McKinsey, the potential energy savings from existing energy efficiency measures is estimated at $1.2 trillion through 2020, which translates into 23 percent of our projected energy demand. As an added benefit, we don’t have to worry about it spilling.

There are indications that business leaders are beginning to pay attention. According to the Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator survey, 71 percent of business leaders are paying more attention to energy efficiency than they were a year ago. Planned energy efficiency investments are expected to be strong in 2010, motivated primarily by concerns around cost reduction, climate change, enhancing public image and taking advantage of government and utility incentives.

Survey respondents expect energy prices to climb by 9 percent during 2010 and say that improving energy efficiency in buildings is their most important carbon emissions reduction strategy. Notably, respondents from India (85 percent) and China (80 percent) were more likely to consider energy management very or extremely important as compared to those in Europe (55 percent) and North America (53 percent). I am tired of falling behind and want to help change those stats.

As I begin my energy treasure hunt, I remind myself that it is often the little things that can add up to a whole lot of energy savings. Over the course of the summer, I will be analyzing the energy profile of Verizon’s data centers and developing energy efficiency recommendations. A significant portion of Verizon’s annual energy costs are consumed by power-hungry data centers, where hidden energy savings lie. There’s a good chance that the information you’re reading right now is stored on one of their servers.

Sometimes energy savings lie in small places, like blocking holes in server racks and raised floors to improve air flow and cooling system optimization. It could also be as simple as unplugging equipment that is no longer needed, consolidating server space to increase server utilization or powering down PCs at night to save energy.

Over the coming weeks, I will dig in to find the energy treasures that are hidden just below the surface as will the other 50 EDF Climate Corps fellows that are on similar hunts for corporate energy savings across the country. So far, it looks like there is a lot of green out there and some of the energy-saving opportunities are gimmees. If we all collectively make up our minds to line up the putts and make them, we could cash in on some green energy savings. Maybe we’ll even get our names on one of those big cardboard checks (made from recycled materials, of course). But first, we have to make the gimmees.

Ryan Mallett is a 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at  Verizon Communications and a Net Impact member. He is an MBA candidate at the Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University. This content is cross-posted at the Environmental Defense Fund Innovation Exchange Blog. Further coverage of the Climate Corps program is available

Image courtesy of Verizon Communications.