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 its 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 2014, IBM saved 6.8 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity consumption, avoided 4.2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions (equal to 61 percent of the company's 1990 global CO2 emissions), and saved $550 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.

2014 Energy conservation results

In 2014, IBM's energy conservation projects across the company delivered annual savings equal to 6.7 percent of our total energy use, versus the corporate goal of 3.5 percent. These projects saved and avoided the consumption of 325,500 MWh of electricity and 267,200 million British thermal units (MMBtu) of fuel oil and natural gas, and an associated 142,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. The conservation projects also saved $37.4 million in energy expense, an increase of $1.6 million over 2013 savings. 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 2,200 energy conservation projects involving a full range of energy efficiency initiatives delivered savings by 341 IBM locations globally in 2014. Examples include:

  • More than 200 manufacturing energy efficiency projects -- including fab tool consolidation, idling test tools when not in use, optimization of manufacturing temperature and humidity settings, and data center efficiency improvements -- were implemented, saving 53,200 MWh of electricity, 37,700 MMBtu of fuel and $4.8 million.
  • Data center cooling and server and storage virtualization and consolidation projects saved over 160,000 MWh of electricity consumption and $17.5 million.

Applying analytics to drive 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.

IBM's TRIRIGA Real Estate Environmental Sustainability Manager (TREES) is being deployed in IBM facilities to increase energy efficiency.

The TREES solution is an IBM-designed software product that integrates existing controls infrastructure across a location, collecting data on an hourly basis and analyzing it for anomalies. It has been deployed at 28 locations around the globe, representing over one-third of IBM's building space. There are 74 basic operating rules in the TREES solution focused on the air conditioning systems, small chilled-water systems, air compressors, boilers and heat exchangers. New rules can be proposed and adopted by users based on operating experience, driving advances in the system's capabilities. Identified problems include equipment operating outside scheduled hours or running at full design speed because of broken components and incorrectly configured control logic.

IBM has sustained an average of 10 percent reduction in energy use annually since 2011 for the buildings and systems monitored and managed by the TREES solution. In 2014, the 28 connected sites achieved energy savings of 30,500 MWh and $1.6 million. Since the start of the program in 2011, total energy savings of 78,700 MWh ($4 million) have been realized.

IBM also has installed chiller optimization software (COS) at eight locations. COS enables integration of chiller units and free cooling systems using a rules-based approach to optimize the overall efficiency of cooling delivery considering the efficiency characteristics of the individual units and the availability of free cooling. By balancing the operation of all the system components under the rules, cooling delivery is maximized while energy use is minimized. IBM saved 6,800 MWh of energy ($0.7 million) in 2014 and has realized annualized savings of 42,500 MWh (more than $4 million) at the eight locations since deployment began in 2011.

Data centers

IBM manages a diverse portfolio of data centers, consisting of both IBM and IBM-managed customer facilities all over the world. IBM operates additional raised-floor space to support internal hardware and software development operations including design and test centers.

We take a holistic approach to managing our data centers -- building new, high-efficiency data center space where needed to meet the needs of existing and new clients, and retrofitting and improving existing data center space to increase utilization and derive more workload per area, equipment and energy resources.

In 2014, we completed nearly 290 projects at more than 120 existing data center locations. These projects reduced energy use by almost 28,000 MWh, and saved more than $3.6 million. This energy savings is equivalent to the total annual energy use of 2,500 homes in the United States. IBM took the following actions in 2014 to achieve these energy reductions:

  • Installed Measurement Management Technology (MMT), which monitors and controls the thermal profile of the data center. In additional data centers, MMT is now used in systems representing more than 60 percent of IBM's data center electricity use.
  • Installed thousands of blanking panels and cable cutout plugs, reducing the short-circuiting of cooling air in the data center.
  • Increased the average raised-floor temperature by 0.4°C in 2014 and 2.0°C for the period 2011-14, with work continuing to further raise temperatures toward an average of 24°C.
  • Shut down over 120 computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units. Overall, IBM has shut down more than 33 percent of the total installed CRAC units from 2010 to 2014, reducing the energy required to cool the data center and improving the average power usage effectiveness (PUE).

System virtualization and cloud computing

Virtualizing server and storage systems allows individual systems to support multiple applications or images, making greater use of the full capabilities of the IT equipment and executing more workloads in less space with less energy.

IBM continues to virtualize and consolidate workloads from multiple servers and storage systems with low utilization onto single systems, reducing energy use and expense. In 2014, IBM virtualized more than 30,000 applications in our owned and leased data centers, avoiding almost 135,000 MWh and $14 million. Implementation of server and storage virtualization across client accounts and IBM's internal operations has been a key contributor in reducing the overall electricity consumption by our data centers over the past three years.

IBM continues to expand its cloud computing offerings. SoftLayer, an IBM company, now operates 24 data center locations in 18 cities worldwide, and IBM's Cloud Managed Services operates from 13 data centers in 12 countries. Cloud computing is an efficient model for providing IT services that optimize hardware utilization and virtualization technologies across the server, storage and network infrastructure.