IBM Speaks Louder On Renewable Energy Goals

Forbes | March 19, 2015 | Column by Heather Clancy

Most would-be leaders in cloud computing—Amazon Web Services, Google GOOGL -0.47%, MIcrosoft, even Apple AAPL +0.81%—have plenty to say about renewable energy goals.

A sign marks the entrance to IBM Corporate Headquarters March 20, 2009 in Armonk, New York. International Business Machines Corporation is a multinational computer technology and IT consulting corporation founded in 1896 as the Tabulating Machine Company. AFP PHOTO/Stan Honda (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

IBM IBM +0.94% has been far less vocal, even though it technically was one of the earliest technology companies to step up support for energy efficiency and toxic materials reductions. This week, it’s raising its voice again with a new goal of procuring 20% of its annual electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020.

For perspective, that’s about 800,000 megawatt-hours, or the amount of power needed to run a 100,000-person city.

“We intend to match our purchased renewable electricity directly to our operations as opposed to purchasing renewable energy certificates as offsets, making a clear connection between our purchases and our consumption,” the company said in a statement.

IBM also pledged to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 35% by 2020, compared with 2005. (The company will adjust the base amount to account for the many acquisitions and corporate divestments it made during that timeframe.) This is its “third generation” goal of this nature. The company cut 3 million metric tons in emissions between 1990 and 2005. Its new goal represents an additional 20% over the reductions it achieved between 2005 and 2012.

The tally: more than 6.4 million kilowatt-hours of energy consumption avoided since 1990, along with 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. These actions have helped the company save $513 million.

IBM’s new goals were disclosed during a White House briefing about carbon pollution—a session that President Barack Obama used to announce an executive order requiring the federal government to reduce GHG emissions by 40% over the next decade. The measure is meant not just as an environmental move. It could also save up to $18 billion in annual energy costs.

President Obama’s order also includes a clean energy directive—up to 25% of total consumption by 2025.

IBM wasn’t the only company at the White House touting the new goals. The administration also invited some of the federal government’s biggest suppliers. I won’t list all of them, but here are some of the companies that used the White Hour publicity blitz to disclose new goals:

Honeywell – It plans an additional 10% reduction in emissions-per-dollar of revenue between 2013 and 2019. The building automation company’s first goal (between 2004 and 2011) achieved a cut of 30%; it also cut 15% between 2011 and 2014.

SRA International – The IT services company plans a 35% emissions cut by fiscal year 2020, compared with a 2007 base year. It also plans to cut paper usage by 7% per person.

Humana – The healthcare company is planning an additional 5% reduction from 2015 to 2016, on top of previous cuts.

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IBM Speaks Louder On Renewable Energy Goals
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.