10 Ways to Improve Your Company's Energy Management

When Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu talks about energy efficiency, he has been known to repeat this mantra: "Energy efficiency is not just low-hanging fruit; it is fruit lying on the ground."

As Director of Energy for a large corporation like AT&T, I must admit that my first reaction is slightly defensive: "Wait a minute, it's not that easy." However, the essence of what Secretary Chu is saying is absolutely true. Effective energy management helps reduce a company's environmental impact and benefits the company's bottom line. Below, I have outlined 10 ways that a company can be effective in improving its energy management and efficiency.

1. Establish benchmarks ... then measure, measure, measure. The old adage is true: "You cannot manage what you do not measure." Measuring your organization's energy use is the first step to reducing it. At AT&T, we consolidated our company-wide energy use data into a centralized data system. This consolidation allows us to better track and manage our energy use, as well as hold people more accountable, by increasing visibility in the way we use energy.

GBX logoInformed by data from this centralized data base, we rolled out an Energy Scorecard to benchmark the energy performance at each of our top 500 facilities. These facilities currently account for 50 percent of our overall energy use. This benchmarking gives us a number against which to measure our progress and set goals.

2. Set goals. Goal setting is key to producing progress. In addition to individual goals for each of the facilities captured by the Scorecard, we have also set a company-wide energy intensity reduction goal. In other words, we want to reduce the amount of energy needed compared to the amount of data being carried on our network.

In 2008, we set a goal for 2009 to reduce our energy intensity by 15 percent. We exceeded that goal, using 498 kWh per terabyte of data carried on our network, achieving a 23.8 percent decrease in energy intensity from 2008. In 2010, we're looking to reduce the electricity consumption of our company relative to data growth on our network by 16 percent as compared with year 2009.

3. Hold people accountable. Some of the most powerful agents for change inside of your company are your employees. They're the folks who are on the front lines and making choices that affect the company's overall energy use. To support our employees in their efforts, we're tying energy management performance to annual employee performance reviews for real estate managers. This not only provides an extra incentive for our real estate managers, but it also demonstrates our commitment to energy management.

4. Communicate your progress internally, as well as externally. Communicating goals and progress is crucial to success. We incorporate information from our Energy Scorecards and central energy database into key performance highlights summaries, recognizing individuals that made notable efforts or progress during the month.

We routinely share energy efficiency highlights in specific business units. This not only promotes learning and progress, but creates a spirit of healthy competition inside a results-driven organization like ours. Quarterly, we issue an energy newsletter that reviews the biggest and best initiatives underway. Our over 270,000 employees have access to this newsletter. Externally, we communicate our energy involvement through a variety of materials such as press releases, our Citizenship & Sustainability (C&S) Report and on our C&S website.

5. Establish a governance structure. We're reorganizing the way the company manages its energy use, while maintaining -- and improving -- the quality, reliability and competitiveness of our services. In 2009, I was appointed our company's first Energy Director. I'm charged with overseeing AT&T's company-wide energy management efforts, and I lead AT&T's Energy Council, composed of key executives from the business units.

In addition, energy is one of the many topics overseen by AT&T's Citizenship & Sustainability Steering Committee, which comprises senior executives and officers from across the company with responsibility for the business areas most linked to our current citizenship and sustainability priorities. As with any governance structure, it is most effective if it has support from the top, with representatives from across the company really driving the effort.

6. Take several small steps -- they add up. Tackling energy use can be a daunting task. That's why it's important to keep in mind that small changes can add up to make a significant impact. An example of this at AT&T is our facility-based initiatives. In 2009, we executed 429 facility-based projects. These ranged from lighting projects to assessing cooling and heating systems, and combined saved approximately 36 million kWh, which is the equivalent the use of 3,139 homes in a year. This past summer, we also had the pleasure of hosting an intern in our office from the Environmental Defense Fund's Climate Corps program.

She spent much of her summer identifying several small projects that -- when added together -- could add to the great work already underway. Read more about her experience here.

7. Invest in power-saving technologies. There are several software systems out there that can help with company-wide energy management. We've been deploying 1E's NightWatchman software across AT&T's U.S. operations. This is an energy-saving software product that turns off company desktops and laptop PCs that are connected to the internal network each night.

We began this program in 2008 and expect to complete the deployment of NightWatchman on as many as 310,000 computers. We expect to save an estimated 135 million kWh of electricity and 123,941 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, according to 1E. That's equivalent to the electricity required to power nearly 15,000 homes annually.

8. Explore alternative energy. Alternative energy can be an intimidating investment. It's expensive and still relatively new. Fortunately, there are several programs that can assist a company in making the foray into the world of alternative energy.

In August 2010, AT&T announced that SunEdison will expand AT&T's national solar initiative by deploying approximately 2 megawatts (MW) of total solar capacity at six sites in California by the second quarter of 2011. It is made possible through a strategic power purchase agreement (PPA) between SunEdison and AT&T under which SunEdison will construct, monitor and maintain an additional five solar power installations in California. In return, AT&T will buy the energy produced from the solar systems to offset their grid demand. This adds to a large-scale 841-kW s solar power plant that was installed in 2009 at our campus in Secaucus, New Jersey, and a 2008 installation of 1-megawatt solar power system at our campus in San Ramon, California.

9. Be innovative. Growing demand for data-intensive products like the iPhone makes data center efficiency a major challenge. Wireless data traffic on AT&T's network has grown more than 5,000 percent over the last three years.

As one path to address this challenge, we looked to our history of innovation. In 2009, AT&T developed the Global Media Environmental Module (GMEM), which compresses the footprint of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment into a reduced amount of space in a single facility by arranging products in a new, optimized configuration. By consolidating ICT equipment into one building, we were able to conserve energy and resources: the GMEM design reduced space required by 40 percent, initial construction costs by 36 percent, and first year cooling energy by 40 percent. Visit the Innovation section of our sustainability website to learn more about these environmentally related initiatives.

10. Don't go it alone. The best energy management efforts tap several different programs with varying areas of expertise. AT&T has been active with Energy Star for many years, for example. We use Energy Star guidelines to help install tools for assessing performance for all major facilities and functions across the organization. Last year, we joined the U.S. Department of Energy's Save Energy Now LEADER initiative, which asks that companies pledge to reduce their energy intensity by 25 percent or more during the next 10 years. The program offers tools and guidance to help companies meet their goals. In addition, we're members of several industry groups that have aligned to share best practices and develop metrics and tools to promote energy efficiency. Such groups include the Green Grid and the Alliance for Telecommunication Industry Solutions. Read more on our work with these groups and all of our energy management efforts at www.att.com/environment.