Conserving energy and reducing CO2 emissions

Energy conservation has been a major component of IBM's comprehensive climate protection programs because the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by the utility companies powering the company's facilities and from the use of fuel for heating or cooling represents the greatest potential climate impact associated with IBM's operations. Because of that, a principal focus of IBM's climate objectives has been its energy conservation goal.

Early leadership and results

IBM has been tracking it energy consumption since 1973 and has had a specific, numeric annual energy conservation goal for decades. The results of this early focus on energy conservation have been significant. For example, between 1990 and 2013, IBM saved 6.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity consumption, avoided 4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, an amount equal to 59 percent of the company's 1990 global CO2 emissions, and saved $513 million through its annual energy conservation actions.

Only energy savings from documented energy conservation projects are included in the above results. Energy savings as a result of divestitures or downsizings do not count toward IBM's conservation goal. Moreover, the above results are conservative in that they include only the first year's savings from the conservation projects. Ongoing savings from conservation projects beyond the first year are not included in the tally. Accordingly, the total energy savings and CO2 emissions avoidance from these conservation actions is actually greater than this simple summation of the annual results.

2013 Energy conservation results

In 2013, IBM's energy conservation projects across the company delivered savings equal to 6.7 percent of our total energy use versus the corporate goal of 3.5 percent. These projects avoided the consumption of 334,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity and 275,000 million British thermal units (Btu) of fuel oil and natural gas, representing the avoidance of 152,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. The conservation projects also saved $35.8 million in energy expense. These strong results are due to our continued, across-the-board focus on energy demand reduction, efficiency and the implementation of standard, global energy conservation strategies for facility operating systems.

More than 2,600 energy conservation projects involving a full range of energy efficiency initiatives delivered savings at 360 IBM locations globally in 2013. Examples include:

    • IBM's microelectronics locations derived energy savings from over 100 efficiency improvement projects in their manufacturing and test areas. These projects saved 28,000 MWh of electricity, 68,000 MMBtu of fuel and $2.4 million.
    • Results were achieved by increasing manufacturing equipment capacity and throughput, improved HVAC management and optimized temperature and humidity settings, and installation of more efficient equipment.

Leveraging analytics for further efficiencies

As "standard" opportunities for incremental savings from typical energy conservation projects have diminished due to IBM's decades-long focus on energy efficiency, we are increasingly leveraging analytics to uncover less obvious, embedded opportunities to achieve continual improvement in operational energy efficiency.

Smarter Buildings technologies such as IBM TRIRIGA® Energy Optimization (ITEO) are being deployed in IBM facilities to increase energy efficiency. IBM locations are updating and connecting existing sensor networks to analytics-based control systems to collect data and analyze individual events and system trends. The information gained is then used to optimize building energy consumption.

ITEO enables facility operations staff to continually inspect the building infrastructure and quickly correct problems -- be they simple or complex. Two examples follow:

  • At one location, ITEO identified a discarded piece of cardboard that had partially blocked an intake duct - wasting 453 MWh/year.
  • At another location, ITEO identified that a low temperature safety setting, which runs the air handlers at low outside temperatures to prevent coil freezing and damage, was depending on a sensor that was located in a room that was unheated on the weekend while the air handler was in a heated space. It was thus causing the freeze protection to start automatically most weekends during the winter wasting 457 MWh/year of energy.

In the above instances, continuous monitoring of the system operations quickly revealed and allowed correction of the out-of-specification conditions, which likely would have lingered for an extended period of time on a traditional manual preventative maintenance program.

IBM has deployed ITEO at 28 of our highest energy consuming sites, with deployment underway at six more locations in 2014. In 2013, the installed systems realized savings of 13,600 MWh of electricity and 76,000 MMBtu of fuel consumption, with a net savings of $1.5 million.

IBM has now introduced a new product, TRIRIGA Real Estate Environmental Sustainability Impact Manager (TREES), with increased functionality and capability to replace ITEO. IBM will begin upgrading ITEO to TREES in its internal operations in 2014.

IBM is also deploying analytics in its data centers, using the Measurement and Management Technology (MMT) thermal profiling solution discussed below, and in its central utility plant chiller plants, using chiller management and optimization software.

Data centers

In 2013, we completed nearly 300 projects at more than 85 existing data center locations. These projects reduced energy use by over 53,400 MWh, and saved more than $5.2 million. This energy savings is equivalent to the total annual energy use of 5,000 homes in the US.

The IBM Measurement & Management Technologies (MMT) thermal management system has been installed at IBM's major data centers representing more than 60 percent of the global raised-floor energy consumption for IBM's internal and client IT operations. This innovative technology from IBM Research produces a real-time, three-dimensional thermal map of the detailed heat sources and sinks within a data center. Using the information provided by MMT, IBM has been able to take the following actions over the past three years:

  • Install thousands of blanking panels and cable cutout plugs, reducing the short-circuiting of cooling air in the data center
  • Shut down more than 30 percent of the total installed computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units from 2010-2013 and improved average CRAC utilization to greater than 60 percent
  • Increase the average raised-floor temperature by 0.5°C in 2013 and 1.6°C for the period 2011-13, with work continuing to further raise temperatures toward an average of 24°C
  • Maintain the average PUE of IBM's data center portfolio, as measured at 58 data centers, at 1.73 in 2013.

MMT offers the additional benefit of rebalancing a data center's thermal profile as equipment is removed and installed, enabling the early identification of developing problems to proactively mitigate their impacts.

System virtualization and cloud computing

Virtualizing workloads allows a single system to support multiple applications or images, making greater use of the IT equipment capabilities and executing more workloads in less space with less energy.

IBM is utilizing virtualization to consolidate multiple workloads from servers and storage systems with low utilization onto single systems, reducing energy use and cost by more than 99,000 MWh and $11 million in 2013. IBM virtualized more than 30,000 applications in our owned/leased data centers in 2013 and plans to continue these projects in 2014 and beyond to continually improve utilization of IBM and client hardware assets and reduce data center operation energy use and space requirements.

We continued to expand IBM's cloud computing programs through 2013, offering IBM Cloud Managed Services from 12 IBM data centers around the globe and, with our acquisition of SoftLayer in 2013, an additional 7 data centers in the United States and 6 locations around the globe in third-party data centers. IBM and SoftLayer announced a $1.2 billion investment to grow IBM's global cloud data center portfolio to 40 global locations. Cloud computing is an efficient model for providing IT services that optimize hardware utilization and virtualization technologies. It allows us to further improve utilization of IT equipment assets, better balance workloads, adjust power consumption, and virtualize infrastructure in data centers to align processing and storage needs with power consumption.

An additional significant energy conservation goal

Since 2009, an integrated team from IBM's environmental and finance staffs, real estate organization and business units have collaborated to realize energy conservation savings through a multi-disciplinary assessment of demand-side opportunities in manufacturing, data center, and IT test lab operations. The initial effort from 2009-2012 saved 1,246,000 MWh of energy through conservation and efficiency. The projects involved the deployment of unique IBM technologies and know-how, as well as a strong management system supported by senior executives.

In early 2013, the same integrated team leveraged their skill and expertise and established processes to set a new 2013-2015 Energy Conservation and Efficiency Plan to save an additional 570,000 MWh of energy by year-end 2015. By year-end 2013, the team delivered 321,500 MWh of energy savings which exceeded the first year target of 207,200 MWh by 55 percent. The following provides a summary of the accomplishments achieved in 2013:

  • As discussed earlier, data center cooling optimization and virtualization projects delivered energy savings of 152,400 MWh and $16.2 million. In addition, we retired end-of-life and/or end-of-project server and storage systems to reduce an additional 12,700 MWh of electricity, saving $1.3 million.
  • Chilled Water Optimization utilizing real-time analytics to maximize the overall efficiency of chilled water systems saved 22,000 MWh and $1.4 million.
  • At IBM's semiconductor manufacturing locations and hardware development and test labs, conservation projects involving equipment and process broadening, optimizing clean room temperature and humidity specifications, virtualization and consolidation of IT equipment, and the installation of higher-efficiency equipment saved 66,000 MWh in energy use and $3.9 million.