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How do you even begin prioritizing these projects?

One of the most important is scalability. Could this project be deployed across other parts of the company and have an impact? Secondly, we look for patterns to see if several energy managers have identified similar programs, indicating a widespread need. Last, but not least, we consider the biggest potential for cost savings. This is usually in areas with major incentives and high energy rates.

Have you brought in anyone from outside to assist with identifying potential savings, or is most of this work done internally?

Most of this work is done internally. However, this summer we participated in a program called Climate Corps run by the Environmental Defense Fund. The program places MBA students in large companies to identify energy-saving opportunities. We had the pleasure of hosting jen Snook, who made the case that installing occupancy sensors—which turn off the lights in an empty room—could represent an 80 percent savings in lighting electricity use in central offices. We’re going to be rolling out the sensors over the next two years in our 250 largest central offices.

We also call on several outside resources such as ENERGY STAR and the Department of Energy’s Save Energy Now program, and work with several industry groups such as Green Grid and the Alliance for Telecommunication Industry Solutions.

Our Stories

From left: AT&T Director of Energy, john Schinter and jen Snook. Photo by jason Robinette.

Finally, what are the biggest challenges as you look forward to the coming year?

Sometimes the biggest challenges can be factors you can’t always plan for. Consider weather. Summer 2010 was the fourth warmest summer ever (out of 116 years of weather records). Conversely, summer 2009 was among the coolest summers on record. Mother Nature keeps us on our toes.

Also, as demand for our services grows, so does the amount of energy needed to power the network. That makes energy efficiency measures critical. To monitor our company-wide energy use, we established an intensity metric, which measures kilowatt hours (kWh) per terabyte of data carried on our network. In 2010 we used 415 kWh per terabyte, which is a 16.6 percent decrease from 2009.

We’ve had an exciting year, though, and I’m optimistic about the progress we’ll continue to make.

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