Energy conservation

We recognize that the most effective way to reduce our carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is to make our operations more efficient and thereby reduce our consumption of energy.

Energy consumption

In 2019, IBM consumed 3,806,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity and 650,000 MWh of fuel and other purchased energy commodities (e.g., chilled water, hot water and steam) worldwide. Our total energy consumption was reduced by 4.5% versus 2018. Since 2016, IBM's total energy consumption has been on a downward trend due to our ongoing focus on energy conservation and operational efficiency.

Energy conservation projects

IBM implemented 1,660 energy conservation projects at nearly 230 locations globally in 2019. These projects delivered annual energy savings of 136,000 MWh, equal to 3.2% of our total energy use during 2019 and surpassing the corporate goal of 3%. They also avoided 47,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions and saved $14.4 million in expense. The avoided emissions were equivalent to removing more than 10,000 passenger vehicles from the road during the year.

In measuring performance against IBM's energy conservation goal, we only include the first year's savings from projects. Accordingly, IBM's total energy savings and CO2 emissions avoidance from these projects are actually much greater than this simple summation of the annual results. We do not include reductions in energy consumption resulting from downsizings, the sale of operations or cost-avoidance actions, such as fuel switching and off-peak load shifting, in our energy conservation results.

Most of IBM's 2019 energy conservation savings occurred in data centers (59% of the total amount conserved) where we completed over 700 projects at more than 150 locations. These projects reduced energy use by 81,000 MWh while saving $9.1 million. Of that amount, 63% of the savings were achieved by refreshing IT equipment with more energy-efficient technologies, and by increasing consolidation and virtualization of IT workloads. Virtualizing IT workloads involves having individual systems support multiple applications or images, reducing the amount of equipment required to complete a set of tasks. The rest of the savings achieved in data centers came from cooling efficiency improvements. For example, IBM reduced the energy demand of fans which deliver cooling by up to 70% by deploying software tools that remotely and automatically adjust the fans to match IT system utilization levels and their heat output.

The remaining conservation savings were achieved across IBM's research, manufacturing and office space by implementing scheduled maintenance, lighting retrofits, and improving the efficiency of building infrastructure. We have deployed IBM's Internet of Things and analytics solution called IBM Smarter Buildings at 25 major IBM campuses covering 190 buildings and encompassing 41% of IBM's global energy consumption. During 2019, this tool enabled the identification of energy conservation opportunities resulting in the avoidance of 11,000 MWh of energy and $800,000 in expense.

From 1990 through 2019, IBM conserved 7.7 million MWh of electricity, avoiding 4.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and saving $646 million.

Data center energy efficiency

IBM has a diverse portfolio of data centers supporting our clients and our internal operations worldwide. We take a holistic approach to managing and improving the energy efficiency of our data centers — from improving existing space to derive more workload per area, equipment and energy utilized, to building or leasing new, higher-efficiency space.

IBM calculates the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) at many of the data centers we manage and obtains PUE data from landlords of co-location data centers. PUE is the ratio of the total energy consumed by the data center divided by the energy consumed by the IT equipment. The closer the value is to 1, the more efficient the cooling delivery. Using available PUE data for raised-floor space representing 67% of our global data center electricity consumption, we calculated our 2019 average PUE to be 1.7. The PUE range of reporting facilities was 1.1 to 3.5.