Increasing renewable energy

In 2013, IBM contracted with its utility suppliers to purchase 580 million kWh of renewable energy over and above the quantity of renewable energy provided as part of the mix of electricity that we purchased from the grid. The 580 million kWh represented 11.8 percent of our global electricity usage and resulted in the avoidance of 224,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

IBM's renewable energy purchases increased by 16 percent from 2012 to 2013. The increase was achieved through the addition of 2,178 MWh of wind generated electricity in India and over 98,000 MWh of hydro power at our New York facilities. In addition, approximately 5 percent of IBM's electricity purchases from the grid were electricity generated from renewable sources -- bringing our total renewable energy purchases to approximately 17 percent of our consumption in 2013.

IBM continued to contract for defined renewable energy purchases above and beyond the renewable electricity supplied in our overall contracts in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States in 2013. We added 2,178 MWh of wind-generated electricity in India in 2013. These purchases enable 33 percent of IBM's locations with data centers, IT labs, and/or product development labs and over 40 percent of its cloud data centers to source some or all of their electricity from renewable generation sources.

In addition, SoftLayer, which was acquired by IBM in April 2013, procured 10 percent of its electricity use, 6,500 MWh, in 2013 from wind-generation sources at three of its Texas data centers. It completed a contract in April 2014 to increase the procurement to 100 percent wind-generated electricity. SoftLayer's energy use and CO2 emissions data is not included in this report for 2013, but we wanted to note the renewable electricity purchases that have been made at the three cloud facilities.

We procure renewable electricity generated from a mix of wind, large and small hydro, biomass, and solar installations around the globe. We report all of our contracted renewable electricity purchases and the associated CO2 avoidance, be they from new, "additional" or existing generation sources, and without discriminating large hydro installations. Our rationale is that all purchases signal to our suppliers our desire for them to maintain and broaden their renewable electricity offerings. We value all economically accessible renewable generation sources and their availability from our utility suppliers.

Our procurement of renewable energy must meet our business needs. Not only should the offerings be cost-competitive with market prices over time, but the electricity supply must also be consistently reliable to ensure uninterrupted power for our critical operations. IBM's strategy of contracting for defined renewable energy has been successful in Europe and we continue to request the inclusion of electricity generated from renewable sources as an option in our contracts in all geographies.

Procuring electricity from renewable sources remains complicated by the relatively low energy density and intermittent nature of wind- and solar generated electricity, limitations and choke points in the electricity transmission system, and international, national, state, and provincial treaty, regulatory and legislative requirements. Continued advances are needed in renewable electricity generation, distribution and storage technologies, and contracting and delivery mechanisms to increase the availability of economically viable renewable electricity in the marketplace to supply electricity directly to consuming locations. IBM is working with industry peers, utilities, NGOs and other renewable energy industry participants to identify, develop and capture opportunities to procure electricity generated from renewable sources where it makes business sense.

IBM also endeavors to incorporate on-site solar energy, co-generation or trigeneration systems, or geothermal systems on an individual location basis. Some recent examples:

  • In 2012, we contracted with the landlord of a leased location in Massachusetts to purchase electricity from a 780-kilowatt (kW) rooftop solar panel array at this location. The system supplies electricity directly to the facility and is estimated to deliver 5-10 percent of the location's annual electricity use. The system became fully operational in April 2013.
  • Three facilities in Europe have co-generation/tri-generation systems which provide 10-20 percent of our electricity use at these facilities, as well as heating and cooling to support building operations.
  • The IBM Zurich Research Center has a 40 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system to generate electricity and a 480 MWh geothermal heating system.
  • The IBM India Research lab operates a 50 kW solar PV system which is used to supply direct-current power to operate a server rack.
  • The IBM Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, facility has a solar hot water system that supplies hot water to the site cafeteria.

We are continuing to pursue additional opportunities to install on-site electricity generation systems at our facilities. These systems offer a means to diversify our electricity supply and increase our purchases of renewable energy, though they typically only generate 10-20 percent of our site energy demand because the majority of the energy consumed by IBM occurs at locations with energy-dense activities, such as data centers and semiconductor manufacturing sites.