An EDF Climate Corps Fellow's Race to the Winner's Circle with Humana

EDF Climate Corps fellow | July 6, 2011

By John-Paul Fontelo, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Humana, MBA Candidate at University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business

Working as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at Humana, my first week in Louisville, Kentucky was a blur -- I learned more about data centers than your average person would ever care to know.  Terms like hot-aisle, cold-aisle, CRAC's (computer room air conditioners), PDU's (power distribution units) and UPS's (Uninterruptible Power Sources) galloped by me faster than thoroughbreds at Churchill Downs.

Data centers 101

My mission this summer as an EDF Climate Corps fellow is to examine energy efficiency investments for Humana's two data centers in the Louisville area.  Data centers are facilities which house computer systems that support a business' core operations.  In this case, these computers ensure that the process to help clients receive healthcare is as smooth and efficient as possible.  The challenge: supporting Humana's mission of perfect service while still guiding the company on its journey of environmental stewardship.

As I walked through the server racks that first week and saw all the blinking lights, I thought about the millions of clients whose vital medical information is stored on these machines.  These two buildings use more energy than any other facility in Humana's real estate portfolio and could not be more crucial to the core operations of ensuring that clients receive vital health care and maintain financial stability in times of sickness or injury.

My new Kentucky home

During one of the first sessions at EDF's Climate Corps training late last month, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) expert Emily Reyna presented a graph from leading nonprofit think-tank Rocky Mountain Institute showing each state's adjusted electric productivity, a measure of how much GDP is generated for each kilowatt hour of energy used.  What stood out on the graph was that Kentucky ranked second to last in this productivity metric – dramatically lower than every other state where Climate Corps fellows are placed. This means that through my work as a Climate Corps fellow, I have an excellent opportunity not only to help Humana but the entire state of Kentucky in closing this electric productivity gap.

What lies ahead

Working with an organization that already displays a clear commitment to sustainability, the task will not be easy .  Shortly before I arrived here, Humana received Energy Star certification for its corporate headquarter building, designed by renowned architect Michael Graves and winner of the American Institute of Architects' National Honor Award. In addition, the IT department has already received industry accolades for building a super-efficient data center.  My charge is to seek out further capital improvements and continue to build the business case for energy efficiency.  I'll be blogging about my projects and findings throughout the summer. Looking forward to seeing Humana and the environment in the winner's circle.

EDF Climate Corps matches trained students from leading business schools with companies to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.