Fighting the Good (Green) Fight


By Eileen Feretic

What do the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Coach, Verizon, The Walt Disney Co. and the NYSE Euronext have in common? Give up? They are all determined to significantly cut their energy usage. When it comes to energy efficiency, these companies and government agencies practice what they preach.

The most recent "preaching" took place on Oct. 2nd at an event sponsored by the Green Grid (www.thegreengrid.org) and hosted by the NYSE Euronext (www.nyx.com) at the New York Stock Exchange. Understandably, security was very tight at this bastion of U.S. capitalism. I had to go through three checkpoints and then be escorted upstairs to the event.

The room was packed. Clearly, energy efficiency is a hot issue for many enterprises. And, not surprisingly, the area in which many of the attending IT executives are starting to "go green" is in the data center.

"The data center is our most critical nonpersonnel asset," said Stanley Young, CIO of NYSE Euronext. "Our data centers need to run at three times the market capacity so we can be prepared for a big trading day.

"Two years ago, we were running out of power. To be as efficient as possible, we decided to build two new data centers from scratch. In our very competitive environment, we can't be even one millisecond slower than anyone else."

Building from scratch enables the exchange to develop energy-efficient data centers in a modular fashion that accommodates market growth without having to build massive facilities that might have wasteful, unused capacity.

At Disney, green initiatives go beyond efficiency and cost savings. "We have a history and expectation of being a leader in social causes that goes back to Walt Disney in the 1950s," reported Denis Weber, director of IT critical facilities infrastructure. "In 2006, we began mapping out a 15-year plan to reduce carbon emissions. Since data centers are large contributors, we monitor their progress in energy efficiency using the Green Grid model."

The other companies featured at the conference were equally committed to making their companies energy efficient. "Green IT is a humongous priority for our business," said Jeannie Diefenderfer, senior vice president, Global Engineering and Planning, at Verizon. "One way we strive to drive energy efficiency is by looking at alternative energy sources, such as solar, hydrogen fuel cells and geothermal."

Listening to the executives talk about what their companies are doing to reduce their energy consumption was inspiring. Regardless of their motivations--whether saving money or saving the planet--these business pioneers are leading the way to a greener future. Now it's up to us to follow.