Everything's Gone Green

DALLAS -- Green Telecom 2008 -- As corporate budgets tighten, going green and saving green are becoming synonymous, and that wasn't lost on the crowd attending the conference here today.

AT&T's Green Queen "We're all trying to conserve cash," said Kathy Loshbaugh, VP of network engineering at Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S). "And I think now is a perfect time to look at energy costs."

During the conference keynote address, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) VP of public affairs Charlene Lake said the big telco she works for is just beginning to understand how influential it could be in driving its suppliers to conserve energy and in helping shape industry standards that make power consumption a reportable metric that is used to influence purchasing decisions.

To that end, Lake spotlighted some of AT&T's recent work in becoming more aware of its corporate carbon footprint. This year, for instance, the company changed how it was buying electricity for its facilities in Austin; it now gets 10 percent of the power used for those buildings from wind power.

On the rooftop of its San Ramon, Calif. campus, AT&T is installing a 1 megawatt solar power system, a move that will cut normal power consumption by 4,300 kilowatt-hours per day. The company's corporate sustainability report, released earlier this month, boasts that the San Ramon solar panels will generate enough "to power more than 165 homes each year."

Maybe that's a drop in the bucket considering how much electricity a corporate monster the size of AT&T actually uses, but Lake's point is this: "There has to be a start." Waiting on industry standards and a supply-chain overhaul to start conserving energy won't cut it.

"If you're not at the table, you're on the menu," Lake declared, just as the session broke for lunch.

Attendees here had plenty of ideas for the AT&Ts of the world to save energy. "They should go unplug all the stuff that they're not using," said industry analyst Kermit Ross, principal of Millennium Marketing. In big phone company central offices, as many as half of the access lines aren't being used, he said, yet the linecards attached to those lines are powered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In turn, putting solar panels on the roof of central offices would "generate all the DC power those switches could ever use," Ross said.

Green broadband
The move for carriers and their suppliers to start promoting more environmentally friendly choices will be a marketing boon for bandwidth, said Heavy Reading analyst Stan Hubbard. Think of all the trips to the bank and paper bills we've already avoided. "Broadband is the digital fuel for the global economy," Hubbard said with a grand sweeping gesture.

Heavy Listening Indeed, telepresence, broadband services, and other ways of connecting people were touted all day here as ways to keep cars off the road and reduce emissions. The telcos have never marketed such services as anything other than digital necessities, so perhaps this is the beginning of a sea change.

Still, not all are convinced a fast broadband hookup does anything for the environment. "How does having broadband help keep you off the road?" one observer here was overheard asking. "The only thing people around Dallas use broadband for is to help them print up driving directions."

Vendor watch
For vendors, the green declarations from service providers at conferences like this might just mean that more brown stuff is going to flow downhill and land on their doorsteps. "We push our vendors to provide more functionality while using less wattage," said Charter Communications Inc. 's VP of network operations, Keith Hayes.

Power Panel AT&T's Lake said that, in January, that telco will produce a document that will detail AT&T's energy expectations to equipment vendors across the board -- from cellphone makers to optical networking vendors. And, while vendors look forward to those energy proclamations from their biggest customers, it was also made clear here that one way to save energy is to keep useful stuff out of the landfills.

"One thing you don't do is trade out your equipment before its time," said Sprint Nextel's Loshbaugh. — Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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[email protected]&T 12/5/2012 | 4:31:38 PM
re: Everything's Gone Green

Sailboat - You know a lot about the energy markets, and you're right that Austin has generally had higher levels of renewable power that we get from the grid there.   However, the deal we did there was not just about buying power of that normal grid.   It was a wind purchase deal that was specifically for the wind generated power, and we had a separate purchasing agreement for it.   So, it isn't something we had nothing to do with - we in fact made a purchasing decision that was completely at our own volition that resulted in this cleaner source of power.   We do factor the mix of energy on the grid into our scope 2 emissions, but we don't do press releases about that!   You can see all of our carbon footprint information on our website.


Additionally, while we have always striven for greater capacity with less power usage and done regular audits of our facilities, we have definitely increased our focus and increased our work around energy efficiency in the last 2 years.   I hope you'll take a chance to read about our latest developments at www.att.com/csr (or to go directly to our energy information, click on att.com/environment and then click on "green house gas emissions" and "managing energy."


And on your point about toxic chemicals - our 2010 goals actually address this issue for cell phones, and we do have similar efforts related to other pieces of network equipment.   Check out www.att.com/csr to see all of our goals.


Thanks for your engagement on these important issues!


Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:28:45 PM
re: Everything's Gone Green So, what would be a good metric for the "green-ness" of a piece of equipment, or of a data center? Anybody got any favorites?
tsat 12/5/2012 | 3:28:44 PM
re: Everything's Gone Green
Its not too hard, a good rough estimate is (micro/nano)watt per bit routed or switched. You have to be comparing equivalent amounts packet processing, but its a halfway decent metric.

joe_average 12/5/2012 | 3:28:43 PM
re: Everything's Gone Green Verizon and AT&T have already published their metrics to compare energy usage for different classes of products.


It will be interesting to see how much weight this metric is assigned in their RFQ process.
tsat 12/5/2012 | 3:28:40 PM
re: Everything's Gone Green Doesn't the quantity of toxic chemicals used in telco equipment amount to a small fraction of the global electronics industry?

I mean, the real bulk of the toxins go into PCs, TVs and video games, etc.

Yes, this has been around for ever. But now we are starting to see data centers pull, what, 1-2% of our total national power? Suddenly, that is very significant.

^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 3:28:40 PM
re: Everything's Gone Green Craig,

I find this article funny. The ATT speech by that lady is so hilarious. She presents like this is some kind of new thing for the phone company.

so, to illuminate the issue and story a bit:
1) ATT has ALWAYS bought a high percentage of it's power in Austin from renewable resources. FACT: the only power company in Austin is the CITY OF AUSTIN Electric Utility. City / citizen owned. And guess what.. this power entity has ALWAYS generated a significant % of it's power from hydro (renewable) and more recently from wind. This announcement is kind of like taking credit for something that ATT had nothing to do with. NOTE: I lived and worked in Austin for many years and know very very well both the Electric Utility and ATT / SBC there. 1a) the regional power authority, for power outside city of Austin is LCRA (Lower Colorado River Authority). For ATT sites outside Austin, they get their power from LCRA. LCRA was started as a completely HYDRO utility that later evolved to have natural gas and other kinds of power plants. But at it's root, LCRA is a hydro provider.... so once again, ATT is claiming good things that they had zero to do with. Only PR hype.

2) this is NOT new. I know for a fact that the carriers have ALWAYS strived for greater bit and processor density with less power usage. Well at least for the last 20 years or so. In fact, the main downtown CO in Austin (Greenwood) has done power audits and thermal audits every couple of years for the last 15-20 years. Looking for inefficient power supplies, wasted power, overheated connectors, really anything that could cut and save power. The phone company has long understood this and included such parameters in their specs for systems.

this is just re-spinning what is already standard operating procedure at pretty much every carrier on the planet.

3) green foot print is NOT only based on power usage. As big an issue is toxic chemicals used in the production of the equipment and used in the various transformers, capacitors, batteries, et al in any given CO or carrier network. Reducing the content of toxic chemistry in electronic or photonic systems has NEVER been lead by our carriers. The leaders in this area is the EU. Our equipment providers / manufacturers are being dragged along by the EU requirement, not by any leadership on this side of the pond.

wap545 12/5/2012 | 3:28:39 PM
re: Everything's Gone Green What is missed here is that the Service Providers have all the tools they need to offer their customers and vendors the means of managing their energy and water usage while providing security and lighting controls for their homes and or businesses.
They can easily bundle in their broadband services (multi-year recurring monthly service package)with a host of water,electric metering and management tools, a HVAC/Thermostat Control, Security (Alarm/Video Surveillance and intrusion), Lighting controls, all managed via a remote access and control package (server)from various vendors/service providers.
These service can easily pay for themselves within a few years for both private residence and commercial facilities. Energy monitoring and control alone is very strong and based on local utility tiered payment programs may be the best deal.

Jim A
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:28:39 PM
re: Everything's Gone Green There was also a lot of talk about the carrier work on the ATIS Network Interface, Power and Protection-Telecommunications Energy Efficiency
(NIPP-TEE) committee. I'm sure, too, there are several efforts afoot that weren't mentioned, so we'll be reporting on those in the weeks to come.
gbmorrison 12/5/2012 | 3:28:36 PM
re: Everything's Gone Green Nice in theory but I think the consumer uptake on something like that would be horrible. The service providers would mis-execute so the reality would be bug filled software and horrible tech support and all manner of b.s. for everyone involved.
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:28:34 PM
re: Everything's Gone Green sailboat -

1) is pretty amusing. thanks for pointing it out.

on (2), about none of this being new, I hear ya. I've been talking to chip companies for years and years about how every chip is lower power than the last version -- even a decade ago, they'd treat that like some kind of headline-screaming news. Now, all of a sudden, that's GREEN!

The difference now, I think, is accountability -- the need to quantitatively prove that you're saving energy. Some people's jobs will get measured by that, so it becomes important.

Hence, things like the ATIS initiative Phil mentioned ... or like the Juniper/Ixia thing from yesterday. Shameless plug:

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