Enterprises can take this idea one step further by using the LDAP structure to control lighting, heating, and cooling in the workspace. "Half of the time, employees are in meetings or in other places," Turner notes. "Using the IT infrastructure, companies can understand how a space is being used, forecast likely loads in building, control big mechanical equipment, and make climate decisions, including whether to heat and cool a space or not. When the last person logs off, we know the building is not occupied, and we can reduce energy by 30 percent."
The savings from such efficiencies can be enormous. Bank of America, for example, expects to cut as much as half its energy usage in 3,300 branches using "intelligent" building automation technology.
"Buildings consume 40 percent of the energy we use in the United States today, and 30 percent of that is wasted through inefficient systems, which include poor lighting control and practices such as running heat and air conditioning at night when no one is in the building," says Brandi McManus, global business development manager of energy services for Swedish building automation provider TAC.
Telenor, a Norwegian wireless provider, worked with TAC to reduce its electricity usage from 300kWh per square meter to 100kWh. TAC designed a system where roughly 1,100 workplaces are individually controlled, and only areas that are in use and active are heated. Rooms are regulated with 600 multifunctional office nodes with sensors, while 900 valves control heating and ventilation. Sometimes, only a low-tech approach is needed, McManus says: "We saw one case where there was a small server room next to an office, and they were using the same AC ducts. Doing a bit of duct work saved energy, and the people in the office were more comfortable, as well."
Removing energy costs from the entire supply chain
Manufacturing, storing, and shipping goods take a lot of energy. IT can reduce the energy needed at each of these supply-chain phases, says Gartner's Mingay. Many logistics firms, such as the U.S. Postal Service, already invest in IT to create the most fuel-efficient delivery schedules possible. And the use of electronic signatures can save a ton of fuel when sending documents around, as Fidelity Investments has found. But IT can help even earlier in the process, by reducing the amount of items to be stored and delivered, Mingay says.
"There are many more opportunities to dematerialize [reduce materials used] and even [eliminate physical] content in a product or service," he says. For example, the shift away from CDs to MP3 files dispensed with huge energy costs, as will the move away from DVDs to downloaded or Internet-streamed video that Mingay sees coming soon. And Hewlett-Packard has reduced its laptop packing material by 65 percent, cutting down on fuel consumed for delivery, as well as lowering warehousing energy costs by packaging the notebooks in a messenger bag in which buyers can tote their laptops.