EDF Climate Corps fellow | September 23, 2010
By Rama Murugan, EDF Climate Corps fellow at CA Technologies, MBA candidate at Smeal College of Business, Penn State University, Member of Net Impact
"By your powers combined…."
Captain Planet, a popular cartoon show from the nineties, summarizes Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) summer fellowship program, EDF Climate Corps. EDF aims to open the eyes of Fortune 1000 companies to the environmental and financial benefits of energy efficiency. This summer, EDF tasked 51 Climate Corps fellows, from different schools and different backgrounds, to combine their powers in an effort to ‘green' corporate America.
For someone whose knowledge of energy efficiency and sustainability was solely based off resources found on Google, EDF's boot camp on corporate energy efficiency training was much-needed and very helpful. We were taught where to find the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency opportunities, how to recognize it and how to go about picking it.
It did not take long to realize that my host company, CA Technologies, has its energy pundits along with energy efficiency projects already in the works. An "already done it" response held true to almost every suggestion I gave them. Starting to panic, I began to really dive into the resources put in place by our EDF support system. Fortunately, passion and perseverance prevailed. Upon digging deeper, I found fruit to be picked. Overall, I helped identify projects that would have a net savings of about $4.15 million over their lifetime.
As I head back to school at Penn State, I've examined key takeaways from my experience as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at CA Technologies this summer. Here's what I've found:
- Low hanging fruit grows back: I did not believe this until I actually saw it happen at CA Technologies. When I started. CA had energy efficient T5 bulbs all over the place, but it had too many of them. Using ten-foot candles of luminance is standard, but CA had 35! I suggested de-lamping the facility, which presented significant 6-figure savings.
- Even the most logical ideas need financial backing: The headquarters of CA Technologies has a tie with NY Power to receive electricity at a subsidized rate, which is almost half of what we usually get. Therefore, it makes sense to relocate all servers from other data centers to the HQ. First, this needed to be validated to ensure an opportunity for energy efficiency. Bundling virtualization and relocation together, shifting the lab servers from just one of the locations to the HQ, brought about a whopping $1.24 million in annual electricity savings. Numbers speak larger than logic indeed!
- Marketing is important to sustainability: I realized that both internally and externally, people were not aware of the sustainability initiatives in place at CA Technologies. I worked with a couple of teams to market our current sustainability projects. Any response received from marketing efforts is a strong incentive to making sustainability a focus in the future.
- Collaboration is very important for sustainability initiatives: There are people interested in sustainability across business units. So, for an effective business case and plan of action, collaboration is very important. I learned to work with cross-functional teams and effectively keep everyone involved.
- There is always something to do -- look beyond the barriers: One of the major barriers I face at CA Technologies is that this company only looks for business investments where the maximum payback period is one year or less for all projects. With a subsidized cost of electricity, having energy efficient projects can be difficult. I found there is a solution to every barrier… keep digging!
When Captain Planet leaves, he says "The power is yours" and gives the powers back to the Planeteers. As for me and my fellow Climate Corps planeteers, we leave the power in the hands of our host companies. They will be the true champions as they implement our recommendations.
And implement they will, as companies who hosted fellows in 2008 and 2009 are already implementing 84% of energy-saving projects recommended by EDF Climate Corps fellows.
It has been an incredible experience for me, especially as an international student, to have my dream fulfilled. Hats off to EDF, Net Impact and all the host companies for coming together for a noble cause.