EDF News Brief: Highlights of our recent work

By Will Bucher, EDF Intern, Corporate Partnerships

Understandably, hectic schedules and information overflow makes it easy for news to sometimes slip through the cracks. This is why we want to recap some of the exciting things we’ve been working on over the last week at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

RESTORE Act Could Kick-start Job Growth Along the Gulf Coast

A bipartisan coalition of ten Gulf Coast senators is cosponsoring the RESTORE Act, which would allocate funds from oil spill fines to the gulf region. The region has been devastated by disaster, both through Hurricane Katrina and more recently the deepwater horizon spill, and is experiencing unemployment at higher raters than elsewhere in the nation. This week in EDF’s Restoration and Resilience blog, Seyi Fayanju writes about how The RESTORE act provides an opportunity to remedy the situation right now – and improve the long-term sustainability of cities, infrastructure and industries ringing the Gulf of Mexico – by putting people to work on efforts to revive wetlands, rebuild oyster reefs and restore barrier islands.

For a detailed summary of the challenges facing the Gulf States, and why the RESTORE act can help solve them, read the original post here.

Exploring Options for EDF to Expand from Big Business to Diverse Business

EDF’s Corporate Partnerships Program is seeking to engage communities that it has not traditionally reached. One area for expansion is through Minority Business Enterprises, and because MBE’s represent about 1.5 million companies nationwide, they are quite the untapped market. While a potentially great product or idea is worthless without a proper understanding of the market and relationships with key players, EDF believes that energy efficiency makes sense from an environmental and economic perspective regardless of the industry or demographic. Bringing energy efficiency to MBEs is no exception. To this end, EDF has created, and hopes to implement soon, a number of strategies for reaching this group of businesses.

Read the full post here.

Solar Farms and LED Snowflakes in July

Erin Evans, a Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow working with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is helping the tribe reach goals of sustainability and energy efficiency. She is working to plan for and install photovoltaic arrays on tribal buildings and solar thermal power. She was also able save the tribe $6,000 a year in energy savings by switching the lights on their snowflake displays, which are used every winter during the Cherokee festival of lights, to LEDs.

For the full post, click here.

You can always read about what's happening at EDF by visiting our website or subscribing to Environmental Defense Fund's Main Feed.

EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Booz Allen Identifies Solutions to Energy Efficiency Obstacles in Leased Office Spaces

By Aaron Landgraf, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Booz Allen Hamilton, MBA Candidate at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

As an MBA student completing an EDF Climate Corps fellowship with Booz Allen Hamilton, I often look for linkages between what I am doing this summer and what I learned from my coursework over the past two semesters at the JHU Carey Business School.

In just a few weeks at Booz Allen Hamilton, I have already seen connections to what I learned at Carey’s innovative Thought & Discourse seminar, where I was given the opportunity to discuss divisive issues with subject matter experts and classmates. These conversations have proven to me that there is value in engaging with individuals whose viewpoints differ from my own.

Due to Booz Allen’s Way We Work strategic initiative, I have the opportunity to put my classroom practice to work as I interact with Booz Allen employees with a variety of opinions towards sustainability. The hoteling model used by Booz Allen allows me and my colleagues to work where I want (e.g. corporate headquarters, an office near my home, in my home) and potentially sit in an office with a new person each day. For my supervisor and head of the Booz Allen Sustainability Program Management Office Elizabeth Wayt, this hoteling model gives her more control over her schedule, replaces commuting time with time she can now spend her family, and reduces her Carbon Footprint. Firmwide, hoteling has eliminated the need for a significant number of office spaces which over time will produce environmental and financial returns.

When I enter an office with a new hotel-mate, I always try to introduce myself and explain what I am working on. Most are happy to listen to the obstacles to energy efficiency investments I am trying to overcome here at Booz Allen and are eager to provide their input. I’ve met with Booz Allen experts in commercial real estate, energy and operations whose viewpoints challenge me to better define the value I can bring to the firm as an EDF Climate Corps fellow. Here is a snapshot of the topics we have discussed:

  • Sensibility of energy efficiency investments in leased buildings
  • Value of LEED certification to building owners and occupants
  • Difficulties in building a business case for sustainability
  • Reliability of metrics for energy efficiency
  • Importance of energy efficiency to global sustainability efforts

The questions that arise from our discourse do not have straightforward answers, but my understanding of these diverse issues has greatly improved my ability to identify the most realistic solutions for the firm. Additionally, there are recent examples of sustainable investments that show the opportunities available for firms in leased office. Here are a couple of examples from Adobe and WilmerHale:

Since many of Booz Allen’s leases are shorter than 10 years, and its largest buildings are already LEED certified, the prospects for us to move in directions similar to Adobe and WilmerHale are limited. However, opportunities for innovative policy changes similar to Booz Allen’s hoteling initiative are abundant. Can we work with our property managers to better control the lighting in common spaces and hallways? Can we more effectively utilize the PC Power Management already installed on company laptops? Can we engage a broader segment of Booz Allen’s 25,000 employees in our sustainability efforts? These are the questions I hope to answer in the next phase of my fellowship.

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.

This content is cross-posted on In Good Company: The Vault's CSR blog.

Taking the Temperature at HCA: EDF Climate Corps fellow checks-up on the company's HVAC systems

By Nozomu Nagai, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at HCA, MBA Candidate at Washington University’s Olin Business School

This summer, I have a unique role as the only EDF Climate Corps fellow seeking energy efficiency opportunities particularly in hospitals and surgery centers. I’ve been tasked to seek out energy savings at Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the leading healthcare services provider in the U.S. operating 165 hospitals and 105 surgery centers. And the opportunity is huge. Healthcare buildings consume 9.1 percent of total fuel consumption in U.S. commercial buildings, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Last year’s EDF Climate Corps fellow at HCA, Nick Fassler, focused his efforts on lighting retrofits. As many hospitals use over 100 types of lamps and fixtures, the project entailed scrutinizing the results of lighting audits at four different hospitals representative of the company’s portfolio. He ultimately recommended lighting retrofits at facilities nationwide that could cut 82 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, saving $7.8 million in electricity costs and 52,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. Over the lifetime of the project, this could save the company $14.7 million in net operating costs. Based in part on Nick’s contributions, HCA’s sustainability board and executive team is developing a staged lighting retrofit program across the organization. The program is expected to begin rolling out in late 2011.

Aware of the success of last year’s lighting retrofit project, I set out to find savings elsewhere. The folks at HCA helped me identify some projects around HVAC and water heating.  According to the U.S. Energy Administration, HVAC and water heating systems consist of about 52% and 15% of total energy consumption in typical healthcare buildings respectively.

Shortly after arriving at HCA, I began gathering the historical energy data of all HCA facilities and several pilot projects as well as data for weather normalization. I’ve found a couple of interesting opportunities so far. The first entails looking at how modular boiler heating systems can save energy and lower costs. And the second involves examining a new concept around a Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) system HCA installed into a warehouse application. This project is particularly exciting, as it’s one of the first times VRV has been used in a warehouse setting.

Moving forward, I will partner with HCA’s Energy and Water Taskforce to analyze the potential reduction in energy consumption by installing these two advanced systems and quantifying the cost and benefits for each. HCA has provided superior direction in helping me make the most of my time here so far, and I’m looking forward to further exploring my unique opportunity in the growing healthcare industry.

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.

Facebook's EDF Climate Corps Fellow Explores Social Networking's Role in the Energy Revolution

By Esra Kucukciftci, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Facebook, MBA Candidate at Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Creating an energy intelligence vision for Facebook, a company that quickly and completely changed the world’s vision for communications, is no small task. Facebook continues to transform the ways we receive and use information every day. And we, Facebook’s three EDF Climate Corps fellows, are spending this summer developing new ways for the company to receive and use its energy information going forward.

To understand Facebook, we must first understand the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) space. In the past decade, ICT has revolutionized the business landscape by improving productivity and cost effectiveness of many industries. And ICT is once again transforming businesses – this time in energy systems. Portable and networked, ICT will continue to dominate both economical and societal change enabled by enhanced electronic data processing and artificial intelligence. In The Futurist (May-June 2008), Cetron and Davies argue that “all the technical knowledge we work with today will represent only 1% of the knowledge that will be available in 2050.”

Megatrends are shaping ICT’s role in the energy revolution

As the global demand for all energy sources is estimated to grow by 57% over the next 25 years, we are in the midst of witnessing revolutionary megatrends in the world’s energy supply and demand. Energy security and long-term energy costs are likely to become the next great challenge and opportunity for today’s businesses. ICT leaders are now increasingly acknowledging the application of computing intelligence as critical to solving an array of demanding societal problems in the fields of energy, public, and utility services. The IT industry is increasingly extending its reach into the energy and building management systems ecosystem too. According to Greenbiz.com, “300 million smart meters for energy, water and gas [are] expected to be in use globally within a few years.” Many ICT leaders such as IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, and SAP are among the most recent companies to ride the wave to transform energy efficiency technologies into enterprise networked energy management systems (EMS). The ICT industry rightly sees the considerable growth potential in using smart technologies to transform our built environment.

The business sector is realizing that “Efficiency is Profitable”

The business sector is boarding the efficiency train too. EDF’s Climate Corps program is in its fourth year helping businesses lead change towards an energy conscious economy. Companies have long viewed their energy efficiency spend as an additional expense. However, life-cycle and return-on-investment-based decision tools such as EDF Climate Corps’ Financial Analysis Tool are making it possible for people like Climate Corps fellows to build a business case for cost-effective, efficient operations and valuable energy investments.

Here at Facebook, the idea that efficiency is profitable is old news. Immersed in Facebook’s high-speed culture, the three of us Climate Corps fellows feel fortunate that the path to efficiency has long been paved by Facebook employees before us. The recent launch of the Open Compute Project in Spring 2011 further established Facebook’s efficiency mindset. And in case we forget, the bright green signs surrounding our work space remind us that “Efficiency is Profitable.”

Social networks can play a leading role in pointing social norms toward energy efficiency

Today’s internet and socially-connected world is giving sustainability thought leaders and energy efficiency advocates access to audiences they could have never reached by traditional means. Both residential and commercial sectors lack coordination and direction, and Facebook’s reach could just be the tipping point it might take for society to adopt energy and sustainability best practices en masse.

Sustainability and energy efficiency are no longer novel concepts. The window of opportunity to leverage energy efficiency for positive growth and lead the change is getting smaller, which makes it such an exciting time for social networks to play an important role in pointing social norms towards energy efficiency. Data does not necessarily make us smarter, but our collective action based on data certainly makes us stronger. Facebook has proven that "social" makes things happen. Since social networks lead the societal change that transforms information into intelligence, I think we can all log on and be leaders in making this energy intelligence vision come true.

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.

Exploring Options for EDF to Expand from Big Business to Diverse Business

By Raphael Meyer, MBA/MS Intern, Corporate Partnerships Program, EDF

I’ve spent this summer working for EDF’s Corporate Partnerships Program, which I’ve found out is essentially the real-life version of my dual degree graduate program at the University of Michigan’s Erb Institue for Global Sustainable Enterprise. Not surprisingly, the people I work with are just as interesting, the problems we’re trying to solve are just as challenging, and the energy going into it is just as intense as my graduate school experience.

EDF engages big corporations to create environmental innovations and improve environmental performance. It is focused on high-profile, high-impact partnerships – working on everything from greening Walmart’s supply chain, to reducing FedEx’s fleet emissions, to putting top-tier MBA students in big companies for the summer to find practical, actionable energy savings.

In addition to working with Fortune 1000 companies, EDF is looking at other, lighter-touch ways to promote energy efficiency. For example, it has a strong Climate Corps Public Sector program, a rapidly growing effort focusing on energy efficiency initiatives in public organizations like universities and local governments. At the same time, members of EDF’s Energy program are working with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators project to analyze ways to improve energy usage in West Oakland, CA. EDF also recently partnered with the port of Houston to develop an innovative method for providing funding to truck drivers to buy or upgrade to newer, more fuel-efficient trucks.

As for me, I’ve spent the summer looking at opportunities for EDF to engage Minority Businesses Enterprises (also known as MBEs, the official classification for companies with a minimum 51% ownership by one or more minority American citizens) on energy efficiency projects. The problem is daunting and undefined – perfect for a summer internship. The goals and potential benefits for EDF are two-fold:

  1. As with any CPP project, the project seeks significant GHG reductions. Simply spending money to focus on one or two small MBEs with low energy impacts will not suffice.
  2. CPP seeks to engage communities that it has not traditionally reached, one of which is the MBE space. Doing so will allow CPP to strengthen its ties with rapidly growing and increasingly influential minority populations while also building on the momentum of its successful lighter-touch partnerships. My project aims to learn more about these MBEs and find the ways that work in partnering with them to reduce their energy usage.

A little background on the MBE space

In 2007, of nearly 5.8 million companies nationwide with at least one employee, about 25% were minority-owned. That’s nearly 1.5 million companies with which to do business, so one would think the possibilities are endless. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The MBE space is vast and heterogeneous. MBEs come in the mom & pop variety, the multi-billion dollar variety, and everything in between. Some have already thought long and hard about energy and sustainability, while others know they must eventually adapt to the realities of a resource-depleted world but are just concerned with making it to next month right now.

EDF believes that energy efficiency makes sense from an environmental and economic perspective. Any good business school student knows, however, that a potentially great product or idea is worthless without a proper understanding of the market, relationships with key players, and a sound go-to-market strategy. Figuring out how to bring EDF’s vision of energy efficiency to MBEs is no different. For each group of companies I can think of partnering with, there are countless chambers of commerce, non-profits, and corporate supplier diversity departments already working hard to improve the outlook for MBEs.

Where to start?

At this point, we’ve developed and analyzed a list of ideas for partnering with MBEs. Since small businesses make up the vast majority of the MBE space, we’ve examined devoting our time and resources to partnering primarily with small MBEs. But given that EDF has not historically engaged smaller companies, we would have to make an especially strong case for it. Furthermore, small businesses don’t use a ton of energy, so we would have to work with a large number of them to guarantee that we would see significant impacts. Let’s also not forget that small businesses have several options available today; for example, the Small Business Administration has how-to guides for small businesses pursuing energy retrofits. Utilities such as SDG&E and PG&E provide their customers with options as well. There are also plenty of consultants vying for this business.

Alternatively, we’ve explored pursuing an EDF Climate Corps model, working with some of the bigger MBEs who, like EDF Climate Corps’ current participating companies, own and operate many buildings with high energy usage. We would likely achieve significant potential energy savings, as well as proof that such a model can work not only in the Fortune 1000 world and the public sector, but also in the large MBE space. But how would this address our goal of reaching out to a new business community?

Otherwise, we’ve looked into working with one or two big corporations that maintain diverse supply chains and are committed to reducing their environmental footprints. This would allow EDF to interact with a large number of MBE suppliers, many of which would be small businesses. But this would lead us to add yet another layer to the supplier-purchaser relationship; this relationship is already complex, with purchasers most concerned about the quality of the products they’re purchasing and the reliability of the subsequent service.

Looking ahead

Fortunately, every day I get to talk with people working with or for MBEs in a variety of capacities. Each of them is solving a problem of some sort – promoting a diverse supply chain within a big corporation, installing energy efficient lighting in small businesses, running seminars on sustainability. What makes my job fun is figuring out where EDF fits into this. What more could an MBA intern ask for?

Rebates and Incentives: Where they are hiding

By Kerry Downing, Intern, Corporate Partnership Program, EDF

**This is part of a series of blog posts EDF will run throughout the summer to disseminate energy efficiency tips from EDF Climate Corps fellows. We hope you will find these tips helpful and incorporate them into your organization’s energy management initiatives.

When EDF Climate Corps fellows are building a business case for energy efficiency, rebates and incentives are critical to the financial analysis. As many fellows are finding, researching for these rebates and incentives at a state or federal level can be an unwieldy and time-consuming task. Here are some ways to work through it:

  • DSIRE: A great place to start this research is DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy). They offer an abundant amount of data on state and federal rebates and incentives. Additionally, it is possible to build a customized incentive database or policy tracking program. These services are offered for rates ranging from $2,000 to $6,500 annually.
  • Non-profits: Speak to regional non-profits that promote energy efficiency. After talking to many of them over the phone, I found that if they do not have the resources to help a fellow directly they can point, at least, them in the correct direction.
  • Utility Companies: Utility companies can be very helpful in navigating the world of rebates and incentives relative to your company or region.  Many fellows have found regional utilities to be a great resource.
  • Contractors: Contractors (for lighting, HVAC, etc.) usually have a line into current incentives or rebates available – some even offer custom research for additional fees. Fellows have found by doing a small amount of internal company research, they are able to leverage current relationships to expedite the rebate and incentive process. 

Once a company is eligible for incentives or rebates, there is still more work to be done. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, ACEEE, recently published a paper called Energy Efficiency Tax Incentive, 2005-2011: How Have They Performed?  One of the main barriers identified in the paper was that tax incentives were based on single systems (i.e. HVAC, lighting, etc.) rather than whole building retrofits. In addition, it is necessary to manually report data, which can be cumbersome. ACEEE says it’s hopeful that an automated data reporting system will be available in the near future.

Rebates and incentives are out there, but becoming more difficult to come by. It is important to realize the resources that are available through your company and then look to regional organizations to maximize the potential energy savings for your company’s bottom line.

EDF News Brief: Highlights of our recent work

By Will Bucher, EDF Intern, Corporate Partnerships

Understandably, hectic schedules and information overflow makes it easy for news to sometimes slip through the cracks. This is why we want to recap some of the exciting things we’ve been working on over the last week at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Gasping for Breath: An EDF Summary of an Asthma-inducing Chemical and How its Entering Our Homes

Toxic chemicals called diisocyanates have long been established as causing severe respiratory problems. In fact, diisocyanates are the number one cause of workplace induced asthma and these chemicals are being increasingly used in consumer products. While the chemical group is essentially non-toxic once cured, the curing process can take a long time, over a month in some cases. Many consumer products, such as IdeaPaint, contain warnings that are inaccessible to the average household product user.

While the EPA recently issued chemical action plans for two of the most commonly used diisocyanates, methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI), these examples illustrate a much broader problem and need:  Diisocyanates are among hundreds of chemicals we know are toxic and are in widespread use without adequate demonstration of their safety. There are thousands more chemicals about which we know too little to determine their hazards, uses or exposures; companies that make and use chemicals we know can cause or exacerbate asthma should be required to show that they’re safe before selling us products containing them that we bring them into our homes and schools.  

For the full post, click here.

Cashing In on Invasive Fish: Illinois Firm Secures Big Contract to Ship Asian Carp from the Mississippi River to Mainland China

A recent deal for 30 million pounds of Upper Mississippi wild-caught carp has been hashed between an Illinois carp processor, Big River Fish Corp., and Chinese grocers and food companies. This deal, which will contribute to a reduction in invasive carp populations, is roughly equivalent to $8 million dollars in exchange for 1 million flash-frozen fish.

While a previous post discussed the potential to use markets to deal with the problem of invasive species, this deal shows that theory being put into action. In addition to helping combat the invasive species, the deal will cause the firm increase its staff at least five-fold. Big River Fish Corp. will also be providing new opportunities for dozens of local fisherman to serve as suppliers of Asian carp. Many of these anglers previously hooked native species that couldn’t compete against voracious bighead and silver carp from abroad.

These market-based solutions to environmental problems are not just applicable in Illinois. They can and should be taking root further downstream in the Mississippi River Delta, and across the nation.

For the original post, click here.

Promising Job Prospects in the Green Economy

 According to The Brookings Institution, the “clean economy” employs 2.7 million workers, which compares favorably to fossil fuels at 2.4 million jobs. That figure represents 57,501 firms in the U.S. directly involved in the clean economy. Further, there is a high growth rate for the clean economy sub-sector related to clean energy – 8.3% from 2003-2010 which is essentially double the growth rate for the entire economy during the same period (4.2%). This growth rate validates an earlier study by the Pew Charitable Trusts published in 2009 characterizing the Clean Energy Economy which found a growth rate of 9.1% from 1998-2007. 

The Brookings report also documents the export strength of this sector of the clean economy versus the overall economy:  $20,129 versus $10,390 per job.  To bring us out of the recession and reduce the deficit, we need economic activity that enables us to grow fast and export more.  Look no further than the clean energy economy.   .

For the original post, click here.

Cooking Up Interest in Energy Efficiency: An EDF Climate Corps fellow’s lessons as a change agent at McDonald’s


By Pia Kristiansen, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at McDonald’s, MBA Candidate at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

With 1.7 million employees worldwide, it’s no wonder McDonald’s is an industry leader in employee education – boasting an extensive e-learning suite and pillar institution, Hamburger University.

The majority of its employees work in restaurants as crew members and managers so it’s also not surprising McDonald’s identified an opportunity to increase awareness and participation in energy efficiency initiatives at the restaurant level. Less commonly known, however, is that McDonald’s already has a number of energy management strategies in place and would like to see them more widely utilized. With this goal in mind, McDonald’s is a returning participant to the EDF Climate Corps program. And it’s tasked me to improve employee education on and awareness of energy-saving tools and practices in its restaurants, contributing to a company-wide effort to reduce energy consumption.

Like most McDonald’s new hires, my orientation included “in-store training.” Yes – I “flipped” burgers and worked the fryer. Although, technically, nobody is “flipping” burgers at McDonald’s these days – the restaurants are equipped with specially designed “clam shell” grills that cook both sides of the burger simultaneously and use less energy. Did I wonder how my Climate Corps fellowship brought me to a kitchen where I franticly attempted to keep up with the lunchtime rush for delicious McDonald’s French fries? Absolutely.

This experience provided extremely valuable insight into the complexities of designing and implementing an employee engagement strategy. In the case of McDonald’s, I never expected that some of the company’s esteemed corporate qualities would simultaneously create a very complex system for enacting change.

Diversity: McDonald’s prides itself on its extremely diverse employees. It is the biggest chain restaurant in the world. Seventy-five percent of its locations are owned and operated by entrepreneurial franchisees – each with the responsibility of running their franchise effectively. At the restaurant level, owner-operators, managers, and crew members are all valued as a resource to the company and represent the diverse communities from which they come. With a commitment to increasing participation in energy efficiency initiatives at restaurants, I’ll need to develop a dynamic program that successfully engages the diverse audience that comprises McDonald’s restaurant employees.

Brand: Synonymous with McDonald’s brand is speed, consistency and quality. Serving more than 64 million people in 117 countries each day, McDonald’s in-store experience is down to a science. For successful implementation, my recommendations for an employee engagement campaign need to be designed to enhance – not disrupt – McDonald’s equation for success.

While the majority of Climate Corps fellows address equipment and technical investments in commercial buildings, a few of us will be tackling the unique challenges associated with relying on the employees inside of those buildings to drive energy use reduction and cost savings. At McDonald’s, I am working on a strategy that leverages the company’s resources and engages the spectrum of restaurant level employees. As I explore projects that range from designing an e-learning tool to innovating communication channels for energy efficiency information, I look forward to sharing my progress as I make the business case for investments in energy efficiency focused on a less traditional definition of capital – human capital.

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.

An Outsider Becomes an Insider – EDF Climate Corps fellow makes headway at QTS

By: Sukrit Sehgal, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at QTS, MBA Candidate at the College of William and Mary’s Mason School of Business

“How hard can optimizing efficiency in a data center be?” I asked myself upon completing this year’s EDF Climate Corps Training. “You just need to change the tube lights, rearrange a few server racks and monitor your cooling temperature,” I thought.  As an EDF Climate Corps fellow at QTS this summer, I initially wondered “Do they really need someone like me to seek out energy savings? Surely large corporations like QTS aren’t blind to such inefficiencies around them.”  As my fellowship has progressed, I’ve realized this stuff is not so cut and dry.

Fixing things…can take a while

My first few weeks at QTS were nothing short of remarkable.  Arriving as an outsider last month, I already feel as though I’m a member of the team. And I have the QTS swag to prove it: ballcap, mini-football, coffee cup – they were free, and I’m a student. Enough said. One of my colleagues recently pointed out that I now use “us”, “we” and “our” when referring to QTS.

This experience, though, has strangely reminded me of growing up and the never-ending issue of household chores. There were chores to be done and usually something for my dad to “fix.” But he had an undeniable (and almost admirable) way of putting off these household handyman duties time and time again.It was not that he lacked the ability to fix things, but these chores just were not at the top of his agenda.

It all came back to me as I engaged with my new colleagues, who are some of the sharpest minds I’ve encountered in my professional career.  Most of the energy efficiency opportunities I was initially exploring had already been examined at some point in time.  But given their demanding work schedules, a comprehensive review of energy efficiency had not yet been done. This too often leaves good ideas unimplemented or underused because they’re not at the top of anyone’s agenda.


To optimize my short time here, I realize I should  tap into the extensive research of my colleagues and understand some of the unique variations from facility to facility.  By involving department specialists in my interactions, being willing to shoulder responsibility, and driving initiatives on behalf of busy colleagues, I can act as the catalyst that they need.


While everyone at QTS understands my stay is short, sometimes urgent tasks and hectic schedules keep my colleagues busy.  Thus, my initial project plan for my fellowship has drastically changed over the course of my time here. Nonetheless, I’ve taken this change of plans as an opportunity to talk to more people.  QTS is a close-knit community.  You can always find more than one person with knowledge on a given resource or topic.  By utilizing the community within QTS, I was able to explore new initiatives while getting ahead on some of my original projects.

Defining my Legacy

How can I define my impact on QTS?  Truth is – the initiatives now underway here would have been possible without me.  But that is not to say I’m not making a tangible difference.  I’m serving as the impetus that is driving the adoption of initiatives that have been considered but not implemented. And I’m helping to make their implementation quicker and more seamless.

Serving as the catalyst to put these current initiatives into motion clears the path for QTS to nimbly and swiftly implement the next round of initiatives to mitigate inefficiencies.  Working on the implementation of efficiency initiatives that will become standard for QTS now and in the future, gives me confidence that the work of both QTS and EDF Climate Corps is time well spent.

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.

Show me the money: How Energy Efficiency Financing makes dollars and sense

Here’s a quick pop quiz to test your knowledge on financing energy efficiency. True or False: 

1. Energy efficiency financing provides risk-adjusted returns in the mid-to-high “teens.”

Answer: True

2. Energy efficiency is the hot, new asset class with massive amounts of investment capital catalyzing upgrades in building stocks and industrial facilities across the country to realize significant greenhouse gas reductions in the near-term.

Answer: False

As crazy as it may seem, this paradox exists today.  The Conference Board and McKinsey & Co. predict that energy efficiency is a $170 billion per year investment opportunity that can provide an average 17 percent rate of return. At Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) we’ve demonstrated the potential return through our work with leading business partners.  Our EDF Climate Corps program has identified investments to date that can create a whopping $439 million of savings in net operating costs. Another example – our work with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) has yielded over $160 million in energy efficiency savings across seven of KKR’s portfolio companies since the Green Portfolio Program began in 2008. Despite all of the promising research and results, we are currently seeing only a fraction of investment capital needed to realize these benefits. 

Investing in energy efficiency is important to our goals at EDF to clean up the air we breathe and stabilize our climate, and we set out to better understand how we can catalyze this marketplace.  We reviewed the literature; spoke with investors from firms Sustainable Development Capital LLP, Hudson Clean Energy Partners and GE Capital; and captured lessons learned from our work with leading business partners like KKR and programs like EDF Climate Corps.  We’ve consolidated the results of our research into a new report, “Show Me the Money: Energy Efficiency Financing Opportunities and Barriers,” which explores how organizations can overcome the challenges to energy efficiency financing and maximize the opportunities that are available for business and our planet.  We hope you will utilize the research we’ve collected and join  us in stimulating this marketplace.  Heck, we would be happy even if you by-passed us altogether and went straight to taking advantage of this lucrative asset class.