The AT&T Issue Brief Library

Our issue briefs provide a summary of key topics. Download all issue briefs for a comprehensive overview, or use our issue brief builder to generate a customized PDF download with your selected topics. 

Energy Management

Materiality Assessment Topic: Company energy use | Global Reporting Initiative G4 Indicators: EN3, EN4, EN5, EN6, EN27

Issue Summary

Globalization, population growth and other factors have led to the exponential adoption and use of smart technologies. Networks carry the voice, data and video that connect us, helping spread information and spur innovation. Delivering this content requires energy. 

Our Position

Effective energy management has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line, is an important environmental consideration and is critical to the competitiveness of our business and the reliability of our service to customers. We’re working towards a 2020 goal to reduce the electricity consumption of our company relative to data growth on our network by 60 percent.

Data Highlights

Targets to our 2020/2025 Goals

In Progress

  • 2020 Target: Reduce the electricity consumption of our company relative to data growth on our network by 60 percent by 2020 (baseline of 2013).
    • PROGRESS: AT&T’s electricity consumption (in Megawatt Hours) per Petabyte of data carried on its network (AT&T refers to this as its Energy Intensity metric) for 2015 is 129 MWh/Petabyte. Relative to our 2020 target for Energy Intensity (93 MWh electricity/Petabytes of network traffic), AT&T has to date achieved a 46 percent reduction as compared to the 2013 baseline of 233 MWh/Petabyte.
  • 2017 Target: Expand our on-site alternative energy capacity to at least 45 MW — more than double our 2014 capacity — by the end of 2017 and intensify our pursuit of off-site renewables with competitive financials.
    • PROGRESS: In 2015, AT&T expanded its solar capacity by 1,000 kW in California. We operationalized an additional 4,350 kW of clean, onsite fuel cell power, helping to power three AT&T sites in California and two in New Jersey. The estimated combined annual alternative energy production of these installations is 37.9MW.


  • 2025 Target: Enhance network efficiency to enable the achievement of the “net positive” ratio.
  • 2025 Target: Deliver customer solutions to achieve “net positive” ratio.
    • PROGRESS: AT&T joined BSR’s Net Positive Project in 2016, a cross-sector coalition that aims to develop practices and tools companies can use to quantify, assess, communicate, and enhance their positive impacts on society and the environment.

Our Action

The Evolution of Energy Management

Energy management is constantly evolving so we continue to explore new strategies and creative ways to work toward our goals and more efficiently manage the energy we use. Visibility and accountability, innovation and collaboration, and technology are the building blocks of our approach.

Visibility and accountability

In 2008, we developed energy scorecards that evaluate energy consumption and project activity. The scorecard generates an easy to understand “grade” for 2,000 of our largest energy-consuming sites. By sharing these grades with all facility managers and working toward creative ways to overcome challenges, we’ve seen greater interest in sharing innovate ideas to reduce energy use. Those ideas have contributed to the implementation of more than 40,000 energy efficiency projects resulting in annualized savings of $362 million from 2010-2015.

Innovation and collaboration

Energy efficiency projects with inherently compelling financials are relatively easy to execute. However, funding and implementing efficiency projects becomes more challenging when the financial returns are less compelling. Recognizing this, we developed the Savings Power Purchase Agreement (sPPA), a mechanism to fund efficiency upgrades without the need of upfront capital. Using the sPPA model, we pay a third-party vendor to install energy efficient equipment at our facilities, then pay that vendor a rate for every unit of electricity they are able to vaporize (eliminate). We have found this to be a successful model for hedging electricity rates and reducing electricity use with no upfront capital costs. Beyond financial innovations, we collaborate with other external organizations to help us further develop ideas that can enhance our energy management while benefiting the environment.


As a company that promotes technology to tackle challenges and create solutions, we are always looking for ways to better use technology to become more energy efficient. For example, Project iCON (Intelligent Connection of Facility Networks) uses our network to acquire valuable data from facility equipment across the country. We can then manage the data from a single, centralized point that allows us to create performance baselines, monitor equipment status and identify required maintenance actions in real time. This allows for significant savings on maintenance costs, in addition to reduction in unnecessary energy use. The implementation of Project iCON is helping to revolutionize the way we manage and ultimately reduce our energy usage.

Energy Metric

In 2008, we established an energy intensity metric to measure our electricity usage as compared to our network traffic growth. We did this to show progress in our efficiency efforts at a time when heavier network demands were driving higher electricity use. Here is our progress to date

Intensity Metric 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
MWh/Petabyte 655 498 415 347 281 233 189 129
YOY Change -24% -17% -16.5% -19% -16.8% -18.9% -31.9%

Though AT&T has set an aggressive goal for reduction of electricity consumption in MWh per Petabyte of carried network data traffic, the combined efforts across all business units to manage our energy footprint and to transform our business have moved us toward our energy intensity goal even faster than anticipated.  The 2020 goal set in 2013 allotted us seven years to produce a 60% reduction in our energy intensity.  By the end of 2015, with only two years behind us, we have already reduced our energy intensity by 45%.

How do we calculate our metric?

The methodology for calculating our intensity metric was developed to allow long-term tracking of efficiency. Since different companies’ networks are configured differently and carry traffic in different ways, it is exceedingly difficult to compare one network to another. We believe that the critical measure is relative performance of a network over time, using a consistent methodology. There are two components to the Intensity Metric: electricity consumption and network traffic.

The electricity consumption value is calculated by aggregating all directly-billed electricity consumption as well as estimates of electricity consumption for leased facilities where electricity usage is part of the rent globally.

The network traffic value is calculated by gathering data (or estimations when actual measurements are not available) from all network layers, including our global backbone as well as our U-Verse television distribution network and mobility network. Specifically, it includes:2

  • Traffic carried on all AT&T global networks, including estimates of private line usage, both local and long-haul
  • All packet data traffic (Ethernet, frame, ATM and IP, including 137 million Mobility subscribers)
  • Voice network traffic (TDM, IP, Mobility)
  • Consumer broadband distribution network serving 15.8 million broadband subscribers
  • U-verse® video distribution network serving 37.9 million consumers using an efficient multicast based IP network

Our network traffic calculation is a comprehensive measurement, and we took extreme care to ensure that traffic was only counted once to prevent inaccuracies in traffic volume. Since a network has many points at which traffic can be counted, it is analogous to counting cars on a toll road. One way of counting cars could be to count the cars each time they pass through a toll booth. The challenge with this method is that there could be several toll booths on the trip depending on the duration and route. AT&T employed a different methodology: counting each car once, regardless of how many toll booths it traversed on its route. Where actual traffic measurements were not available, AT&T took a disciplined approach in estimating such traffic, ensuring it was not counted elsewhere.


Visibility and Accountability

Energy Policy

AT&T has an Energy Policy signed by our Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson. In accordance with the policy, energy information is provided to the Citizenship and Sustainability Steering Committee, which ultimately reports to the board. The policy states that, “as a global communications leader, effective energy management is critical to the competitiveness of our business and the reliability of our service to customers.” It also outlines AT&T’s commitment to, “developing in our offices and labs new technologies and approaches to energy use” and calls for a comprehensive energy strategy with clear goals, metrics and management systems. 

Energy Team & Champions.

Dedicated full-time to energy management, AT&T’s AVP of Energy and Property Management Center of Excellence, John Schinter, oversees AT&T’s company-wide efforts across business units. He develops and implements our energy transformation strategy and leads an 18-member energy team, which also works full-time to oversee thousands of energy projects, analyze and collect data, and track progress and goals. Thirteen regional energy leads and 229 “Energy Champions” work with the energy team. These champions are largely real estate managers and network operators on the ground and implementing energy management efforts. As part of our efforts to encourage accountability, the managers and operators working on these projects have part of their compensation directly tied to performance on energy management.

Energy Scorecard

The heart of our energy management program is the energy scorecard. Fed by data from a centralized database, this scorecard generates easy-to-understand “grades” at our top 1,000 energy-consuming facilities and 1,000 retail locations. The “grades” are based on energy consumption and activity, including initiatives attempted and training related to energy efficiency projects. The energy scorecards are available to facility managers, making energy consumption performance public within the team. We have found that this increased visibility is helping to set goals and promote innovation through shared learning.

Tracking Energy Management

As the foundation of our energy management-tracking program, we centrally process our utility invoices and extract the energy consumption data from them. This energy information is available to internal network operators and real estate managers. This accessibility and transparency drives accountability. The energy team can also benchmark performance, set expectations and see trends over time. In addition to collecting data from invoices, we perform audits on all facilities at least once every 18 months and the top 1,000 more frequently. Using data from the database, we have entered more than 1,300 unique properties — including our top 1,000 facilities — in the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

Tracking and Communicating Our Progress

We routinely share information on energy performance across our entire real estate operations through newsletters, email campaigns, meetings and video conferencing. Bi-monthly, we publish an energy newsletter, available to all employees, that highlights the biggest and best energy efficiency initiatives underway.. We have also created an energy progress database accessible to employees inside the company. This database includes past, present and potential energy projects. This database facilitates the sharing of best practices, and creates a spirit of healthy competition across the company. We also try to make energy data accessible to energy managers across the company. We are able to do this through our Energy web-site, which showcases our state-of-the-art set of energy management tools and is readably accessible to energy and corporate real estate users.

Integrated Energy Database

Making energy data accessible and clear to energy managers across the company is essential to keeping on top of its management. Our energy team uses a centralized, user-centered energy project management platform. This energy project management platform captures world-wide energy project data and provides routine and customized reports enabling energy project management.

Innovation and Collaboration

Savings Power Purchase Agreements (sPPA)

Under the Saved Power Purchase Agreement (sPPA) Program, we retrofitted 119 facilities — roughly 9.2 million square feet of office, retail and workspace — with newer, energy efficient lighting. We also installed 761 Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) on HVAC motors at 178 facilities, which allow the HVAC fans to operate at different speeds depending on the load, allowing for increased efficiency in energy use.  Our LED lighting retrofit program in 2015 resulted in upgrade of 47 facilities and 2.5 million square feet or real estate with more advanced and economical LED lighting. Taken together, the annual energy savings and expense from these programs is nearly 78 million kWh and approximately $8 million dollars in annualized savings. Due to the nature of the sPPA financial arrangement, we did this with no capital or up-front expense. This equates to the removal of nearly 55,000 metric tons of CO2e, and also equivalent to the electricity use of more than 8,095 homes for an entire year according to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. The nature of the sPPA arrangement allows AT&T to additionally enjoy non-energy, financial benefits for the life of the contract. These benefits may include reduced operating and maintenance expenses for the installed equipment during the duration of the contract. For the 2015 sPPA programs, the values of these non-energy benefits were calculated at $2.69 million.

Alternative Energy Collaboration

At the end of 2015, our alternative energy portfolio included 5.0 megawatts (MW) of solar installations and 20.9 MW of onsite fuel cell power from Bloom Energy servers, for a total alternative-energy capacity of 25.9 MW. These sources of power will produce 180.6 million kWh annually, which is equivalent to the electricity use of nearly 18,800 homes for a year. 

In 2015, we continued to build out alternative energy capacity. In Long Beach, CA, we brought online a solar system with 1,000 kW of capacity. We also worked with Bloom Energy Corporation to install Bloom Energy servers at three additional sites in California and two in New Jersey. The fuel cell technology provides reliable, affordable onsite power that reduces CO2 emissions by approximately 50 percent compared to the grid. It virtually eliminates SOx, NOx (sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides) and other harmful smog forming particulate emissions.

We are always exploring collaborative relationships to expand our alternative energy portfolio. In 2008, 10 percent of our electricity consumption for all AT&T facilities in Austin, Texas came through Austin Energy’s GreenChoice alternative energy program. We continue to source some of our power in Austin through this wind initiative. This effort will help us avoid 7.2 million kWh of fossil fuel-generated electricity each year.

A new Alternative Energy Dashboard providing real-time production was created and available for all AT&T employees to access.  


Modernizing Our Network

The modernization of our networks to meet the demands of the 21st Century presents enormous opportunities. This starts with our transition from a copper-based network to a fiber-based IP one. Fiber-based IP networks provide far more energy efficiency than copper-based equipment. Fiber also has dramatically more traffic capacity. Our IP-based network will also be virtualized and software-controlled, which will allow us to minimize unused capacity, thus resulting in energy and cost savings.

Facility Initiatives

In 2015, we invested more than $29 million to implement 3,002 projects that totaled an annualized savings of $46 million. Example programs include:

Real Estate Reduction

By using space more wisely, we are able to reduce the amount of energy used to power it.  During 2015, we closed 32 owned facilities — reducing building space by more than 804,000 square feet, and consolidating our operations to facilities that are more energy efficient. This portfolio reduction will help us conserve 74 million kWh of electricity each year, which is equivalent to the electricity use of approximately 7,680 households, according to the EPA GHG Equivalencies Calculator.

Large-Scale Energy Efficiency Projects

These include such projects as upgrade of air-handler efficiency and controls in our buildings, lighting retrofits, and variable frequency drive (VFD) installations. The vast majority of the 3,002 projects fell into these categories. These projects provide an annualized savings of more than 380 million kWh and $39 million dollars. These improvements in energy savings will be realized in less than 1.5 years, looking at them from a simple payback perspective. They will save an amount of electricity equivalent to what would be required to run more than 39,000 homes for a year, according to the EPA GHG Equivalencies Calculator.

Training Employees

Equipping our energy managers with the proper tools and knowledge is critical to driving progress. Nearly 100 percent of our Energy Champions are ENERGY STAR certified through an internal ENERGY STAR online training course that is available to them at any time.

Cell Sites

In late 2013, AT&T issued a policy specifying a new and more energy-efficient model of air conditioning systems (HVAC) for its sheltered cell sites. These HVAC systems are factory-equipped with free air cooling systems. When outside temperature and humidity are within acceptable ranges, the systems circulate outside air to cool the shelter equipment space instead of using the HVAC compressors, ranging in savings of 20 percent or more. To date, we have outfitted more than 3,500 cell sites with the new HVAC units, resulting in cumulative savings of more than 130 million kWh. In 2016, we will continue the deployment program with implementation of smaller and more high-efficient units as our standard. Efforts continue with free air cooling to include recent approval of free-standing systems that can be used for sites where a wall mounted HVAC unit cannot be accommodated. Additionally, our electronics and site hardware continue to evolve to be more heat tolerant. As older and less power efficient technologies are removed from our sites, we will become less dependent on mechanical cooling and open the door for higher operating temperatures as well as even greater use of the free cooling systems.

Network Organizations Asset Utilization

2015 saw a major focus shift toward improving Network asset utilization through the systematic consolidation and decommissioning of excess network capacity. Network teams across the country completed more than 12,000 projects involving the elimination of superfluous and underutilized capacity across all of our network layers. These efforts, which truly began to flourish in 2015, have eliminated approximately 720 million kWh on an annualized basis from our energy footprint. This is equivalent to nearly 506,000 metric tons of CO2-e, which is itself equivalent to the annual emissions of about 107,000 passenger vehicles driven for one year, or the electricity used to power roughly 74,720 houses annually.

Data Centers

Improving the energy use of data centers represents a constant challenge and opportunity for our business. We are committed to pursuing energy efficiency at these facilities to provide a productive and efficient space for our equipment. Common projects included replacement of older major air conditioning equipment (chillers and compressors) with newer, more efficient equipment. Other projects included retrofitting of existing equipment with variable frequency drives (VFDs), and other similar enhancements to use existing equipment in a more efficiently. Additionally, AT&T considers sustainability as one of the variables in the design and construction process of any new data center. In the process we consider sustainable design and LEED-qualifying solutions that affect water, energy and waste — e.g., economization, reduced impervious surfaces and natural low maintenance landscaping. AT&T’s newest data center in Kings Mountain, NC attained LEED GOLD certification for its design.

1As our tracking mechanisms become more mature, we are able to capture data that more completely and accurately quantifies our energy efficiency improvement programs.

Updated on: Aug 1, 2016