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Verizon Communications
Introspective Energy Conservation Strategies

by Eliza Barclay

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the telecommunications industry spends over $2 billion every year to power its facilities. In November 2001, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman introduced a challenge to the industry, calling for a voluntary 10 percent reduction in energy use. To support this activity, Whitman encouraged companies to join EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Star Program, promising that EPA would help companies develop a benchmarking tool to track energy use. In particular, the benchmarking tool could be used to rate energy performance at central office spaces, or switching centers, to see how they compare to others nationwide on a scale of 1 to 100. EPA claims that central office spaces use considerably more energy per square foot than any other commercial spaces. Furthermore, EPA projects savings of over $200 million a year and the prevention of 2 million tons of carbon emissions if telecommunications firms rise to this challenge with the help of the benchmarking tool.

Verizon Communications has been working closely as an Energy Star partner to develop the benchmarking tool, and is a leader in the telecommunications sector in the areas of energy conservation and clean energy procurement. Also a pilot partner in the EPA Climate Leader Program, a 2001-2002 winner of the Energy Star Award, a winner of the 2002 Climate Protection Award and 2001 Financial Times Global Energy Award, and recipient of various other forms of recognition, the company has demonstrated a multi-layered dedication to improving its environmental impact through its energy use.

Seeds of Environmental Commitment

Prior to Verizon Communications’ emergence as a high-profile Fortune 500 telecommunications conglomerate, Bell Atlantic (eventually to become Verizon) executives were establishing a commitment to environmental protection. In 1997, four telecommunications firms, including Bell Atlantic, gathered with the Center for Resource Management (CRM) to forge the Communications Environmental Excellence Initiative (CEEI). Two years later, Bell Atlantic jointly signed the CEEI Environment Charter, a pledge to “identify environmental challenges and develop solutions, and…provide environmental leadership and innovation when opportunities work to the advantage of our customers and shareholders.” The Charter provides a set of operation principles fashioned to generate environmentally desirable outcomes.

At the same time, Bell Atlantic merged with NYNEX and management of the energy budget fell into the hands of a real estate executive for the company, Joe Agnich. Agnich, and other senior level colleagues from various departments, swayed by energy market deregulation and the volatility of future supplies, decided to actively address energy reduction issues and form Team Energy. Team Energy’s purpose is to guide energy reduction and procurement through internal strategies and research and implement green energy sources. Shortly afterwards, an Energy Board of Directors was conceived to support collaboration between departments on energy reduction issues.

With the creation of Verizon after Bell Atlantic’s merger with GTE in June 2000, Team Energy’s responsibility grew dramatically. The merger extended the company’s domestic operations and range of influence to 44 states, an increase of 33 from Bell Atlantic’s 11. The Bell Atlantic representatives felt strongly that the company’s environmental values must be fused into Verizon, and subsequently, Team Energy remains an integral force within the company’s real estate division.

The fact that the team resides within the real estate division differentiates Verizon from other corporate management structures. In most companies, environment-related issues are handled by an environmental affairs department. Within Verizon, reductions and changes in procurement are monitored by managers who are directly responsible for facilities and the associated costs for maintaining them. Verizon sees this structure as an advantage in setting and meeting goals for energy use.

Team Energy In Action

One of the ways Team Energy has been able to implement its vision is by requiring operational changes in facilities and purchasing. The facilities arm of Team Energy has dealt with improving the energy efficiency of Verizon’s approximately 15,000 buildings throughout the nation. Facility energy managers have primarily focused on employing more efficient technology for motors in switching centers, lighting systems, duel fueling systems, and cooling and heating systems.

On the purchasing end, the new technology arm of Team Energy is comprised of staff and consultants who research the future of energy resources and make recommendations. Early in 2002, Verizon announced the purchase of seven PC25 fuel cell plants to begin producing 4.4 megawatts of power in 2003. The energy will be used for a call-routing center in Garden City, NY. “We believe that it is the largest fuel cell installation in the world, because our fuel cell supplier, United Technologies, who sells the only fuel cell in commercial production, has not sold or installed more than 4 or 5 kilowatt fuel cells at any one location,” said Jeremy Metz, Energy Purchaser for Verizon. The company is also looking to utilize a number of other technologies such as microturbine generators, generator emission upgrades, and ground source heat pumps and energy resources like wind and photovoltaics.

The second major way that Team Energy has executed its mission to reduce energy use is by encouraging voluntary employee participation through targeted communications strategies. Betty Anderson, Manager for Energy Communication & Greenhouse Gas Reduction, along with other Team Energy managers, created the Energy Champion program for employees. The program encourages employees to come up with creative approaches to energy conservation within their offices and has attracted more than 300 employees at 179 different locations nationwide. Anderson said, “Employees have jumped into the program with more zeal than I’ve ever seen in 15 years working here.”

Energy Champions receive recognition within their office or facility and from the larger Verizon community. Team Energy highlights efforts of individuals in corporate publications and supports recognition for exceptional energy reduction efforts through the company’s award program for general excellence. When employees were asked whether they were prompted more by a concern for the environment or by an interest in using company money more efficiently, employees cited both as motivating factors, but leaned slightly more towards the environment.

Examples of Energy Champion initiatives are diverse -- one woman in a Washington state office designed and distributed “flower power” stickers to her co-workers to remind them to turn off their computer monitors. Another employee in a Pennsylvania facility re-configured the weekend schedules so that the few employees on duty would work out of one building instead of being sparsely distributed throughout the six buildings usually kept open. Others have created inter-office web sites to communicate the importance of energy conservation in a particular facility.

Conclusion

Each step that Verizon has taken to require and encourage more mindful energy use has proved worthwhile. With two different systemic approaches to change, one imposing standards and energy reductions goals from the top down and the other calling for grassroots leadership within the company, Team Energy’s approach represents a comprehensive model for internal change within a company.

Team Energy’s philosophy and action plan indicate success on social and educational levels, but the quantifiable results speak even louder. A group within the team responsible for managing the energy use data and associated impacts on the budget has developed sophisticated energy data management systems to track and measure overall use and savings. The data available since Team Energy’s inception estimates $60 million saved from the reduction in energy use and the prevention of 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The results of Team Energy’s efforts so far, in Betty Anderson’s opinion, are phenomenal.

Team Energy has been very pleased with their achievements, and continues to look into new ways to spread and implement the message of energy conservation. Team Energy has begun to track and measure specific greenhouse gas emissions and hopes to do more in the future. “We’re focusing on energy and the future,” said Betty Anderson, “because we want to do it right, and we want to be the leader.” Verizon’s accomplishments so far and the depth of its commitments will likely guide other corporations in a similar direction of energy mindfulness.  

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