Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cisco EPA Climate Leader: Greener Facilities

For many engineering and service companies, Cisco included, facilities /computing is the largest part of their operational footprint. For example, Cisco’s energy costs are $130 M annually and electric energy use is the largest component of its overall GhG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions.

There are some excellent strategic lessons to be learned from Cisco’s experiences in the facilities area:
  • Measure and set goals
  • Keep equipment well maintained to achieve optimum resource utilization
  • As green technology continues to improve and evolve, plan on more frequent upgrades

Baseline audit and set goals
The first activity that Cisco undertook was to understand the details of its footprint for owned and leased facilities. Cisco developed a tool to capture data to first provide a baseline and then on-going to measure progress. John Hailey explained the goals of data collection process were to
  • Ensure consistency across geographies
  • Keep it simple – no expert teams; no expert tools
  • Involve local Cisco representatives
  • Automate wherever possible

As part of the Climate Leaders program, the EPA encourages companies to share best practices and Cisco has made its tool available to other companies. Cisco has also acquired a product from SAS to report on utilization.

Maintain equipment
From a purely operational perspective, Cisco is adopting a retro-commissioning program which involves a more frequent review of facility operations and adjustment to systems. John Hailey provided an analogy; “This is something akin to performing a tune-up continuously on your car. It means fewer breakdowns and much better equipment performance over time.“ This also ensures that as a building’s usage changes over time ---- such as changes in density, seasonal changes in weather --- that equipment is tuned to run optimally.

Leverage continuing improvements in green technologies
As buildings age and new technologies emerge, there is an opportunity to exploit new energy saving alternatives. In its initial construction for its San Jose Campus, Cisco specified window tinting for exterior glazing to reduce heat gain. Today, window film technology is quite sophisticated and much more can be saved using new window film technology. And when that technology is combined with other new technologies, such as programmable LED lighting, lighting energy can be reduced by capturing daylight penetration without the attendant heat gain.

Even if there are improvements in an area, some “strategic procrastination” may be in order when a new evolutionary technology is close to reaching the mainstream market. John Hailey thinks general lighting may be one such area. Cisco currently has the relatively efficient T8 fluorescent lamps, but is now evaluating whether to upgrade to the more efficient T5 lamps, or wait until LED lighting technologies reach the market. The efficiencies of LED lighting and lighting controls, in combination with other technologies, such as window films, offer savings more than twice as attractive. Another one of these technologies is solar, where panel efficiencies per square inch continue to improve with time, making deployment on limited available roof space more attractive.

The specific activities and general strategies that were employed by Cisco were:
  • When completing baseline measurement, a tool to capture data easily will make analysis for goal-setting and on-going tracking easier.
  • Maintain and adjust equipment to achieve best operating performance.
  • Plan on continued upgrades as emerging technologies provide significant additional benefits. Monitor trends and time purchases to take advantage of evolutionary leaps in technology.
A subset of facilities, computing (labs and data centers) is over half of Cisco's electrical energy use. Consequently, computing center improvements were important part of the EPA Climate Leader program. Read more in Part 2 >>

Cisco’s 25% reduction from 2007 baseline in five years equates to nearly 165,000 metric tons. Based on the EPA Carbon calculator; 165,000 metric tons of GhG is the equivalent to the annual emissions from more than 110,000 cars.

From the EPA website, “Climate Leaders is an EPA industry-government partnership that works with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. Partner companies commit to reducing their impact on the global environment by completing a corporate-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions based on a quality management system, setting aggressive reduction goals, and annually reporting their progress to EPA.” Learn more about EPA Climate Leaders Program >>.

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