SAP’s Palo Alto energy efficiency and CO2 reductions

Cisco Telepresence

As mentioned previously, I was in Santa Clara and Palo Alto last week for a couple of SAP events.

At these events SAP shared some of its carbon reduction policies and strategies.

According to SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Peter Graf, the greatest bang for buck SAP is achieving comes from the deployment of telepresence suites. With video conferencing technologies SAP is saving ?655 per ton of CO2 saved. This is hardly surprising given Cisco themselves claim to have saved $790m in travel expenditure from their telepresence deployments!

Other initiatives SAP mentioned were the installation of 650 solar panels on the roof of building 2 which provides for around 5-6% of SAP’s Palo Alto energy needs. This means that on sunny days, the SAP Palo Alto data centre can go completely off-grid. The power from the solar panels is not converted to AC at any point – instead it is fed directly into the data centre as DC – thereby avoiding the normal losses incurred in the conversion from DC->AC->DC for computer equipment. Partnerships with OSISoft and Sentilla ensure that their data centre runs at optimum efficiency.

SAP also rolled out 337 LED lighting systems. These replaced fluorescent lighting tubes and because the replacement LED lights are extremely long-life, as well as low energy, there are savings on maintenance as well as electricity consumption.

Coulomb electric vehicle charging station at SAP HQ in Palo Alto

SAP has placed 16 Coulomb level two electric vehicle charging stations around the car parks in its facility. These will allow employees who purchase electric vehicles to charge their cars free of charge (no pun!) while they are at work. SAP has committed to going guarantor on leases for any employees who plan to purchase electric vehicles. We were told to watch out for a big announcement from SAP in January in the electric vehicle space!

In its entirety, SAP has invested $2.3m in energy efficiency projects at their Palo Alto campus. This will lead to $665,000 savings per annum with a payback in under four years and an annual CO2 emissions reduction of over 807 tons.

This may sound like small potatoes but SAP intends to be both an exemplar and an enabler – so they want to be able to ‘walk the walk, as well as talking the talk’.

One of the points that SAP constantly mention in briefings is that while their CO2 emissions amounted to 425,000 tons for 2009, the CO2 emissions of their customer base, associated with their running SAP software is 100 times that and the total CO2 emissions of their customer base is 100 times that again! Consequently SAP sees itself as potentially having sway over a large portion of the world’s carbon emissions. SAP hopes to be able to use this influence to help its client companies to significantly reduce their emissions – and to use its software to report on those same reductions!

Two questions I forgot to ask SAP on the day were:

  1. if they were getting any rebates from their utility (PG&E) for energy reductions? and
  2. if the car charging stations were being run from the solar panels (and if so, were they also running DC-DC directly)?

Are SAP execs really committed to Sustainability?

SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe

I attended SAP’s 2010 Influencer Summit last week in Santa Clara and was quite impressed by the quality (though not necessarily the quantity) of the Sustainability-related information which was imparted there.

The event got off to a very good start when the company’s co-CEO, Jim Hagemann Snabe, addressed the event remotely from Germany instead of flying in. Now, while this was not specifically for sustainability-related reasons, it does clearly demonstrate that physical presence is not a necessity in addressing conferences. Even more heartening was to hear Jim referring to Sustainability themes in his keynote (I attended a Symantec event a few weeks back where the CEO and business unit leads made no mention of Sustainability, at all!).

However, following Jim’s talk, the execs who spoke after him made no reference, at all to Sustainability which was a big missed opportunity. SAP’s Rainer Zinow, for example, mentioned that the new version of SAP’s Netweaver product had been optimised for cloud and for multi-core architectures. When I asked him subsequently if it were also more energy efficient, he said “Absolutely” and offered to get me the info. This fact was confirmed to me the following day by Peter Graf in an energy efficiency event I attended.

Why wasn’t it part of the talk though – even if only a throwaway comment?

Scott Bolick at the 2010 SAP Influencer Summit

Scott Bolick at the 2010 SAP Influencer Summit

In fairness to SAP, there was a full Sustainability track the first afternoon with talks from SAP’s Peter Graf, Scott Bolick, Jeremiah Stone and Sami Muneer amongst others but how hard would it have been for the likes of Vishal Sikka, Sanjay Poonen or Raj Nathan, all of whom spoke after Jim Hagemann Snabe, to even throw in a sop to Sustainability in their presentations, even if only to keep the thought alive until the afternoon track.

The fact that the only senior manager to address sustainability was Jim Hagemann Snabe (with the exception of the Sustainability team, obviously), could lead one to wonder if Jim is alone in SAP in his commitment to Sustainability.

Having talked to many of the SAP execs about Sustainability over the years, I know this is not the case. But others present who haven’t had those conversations might now be wondering.