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Intuit Cuts Electricity Per Dollar Revenue, Absolute Consumption Rises

Intuit has steadily improved its electricity usage relative to revenue since 2007, but its absolute electricity usage has increased since FY08, according to the company’s first sustainability report.

The report did not provide relative electricity usage figures, though the company said it has made annual improvements in this area. Instead, the report presents a chart for absolute electricity usage, which has increased for the past three years.

While the chart doesn’t give exact figures, electricity use was over 105,000 MWh in FY11, compared to about 100,000 in FY10, and well over half of consumption in both years came from data centers.

The report attributes the increases to a rise in data center electricity usage. The company says its data center operations personnel are working diligently to increase efficiency and maintain electricity usage in line with Intuit’s overall energy usage.

The maker of business and financial software including QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax was ranked the 30th greenest company in the U.S. by Newsweek last year, up from No. 55 in 2010.

Intuit says it aims to achieve 100 percent data collection for all electricity consumption, water usage and waste generation. The company has tried several systems to track and manage its energy use and carbon emissions, Intuit senior program manager of workplace services Tom Harrington told a recent Environmental Leader webinar. An early system had many omissions and duplicates, but for the past four fiscal years, Intuit has used a Hara system that Harrington says delivers better root-cause analysis, modeling of proposed efficiency investments and the ability to drill down into campus- and building-level data.

Intuit has included scopes 1, 2 and 3 in its GHG inventory since its first annual environmental footprint study, completed in 2008. The company has collected facility and data center electricity usage statistics for most of its largest facilities for the past five years, but says it still uses estimates from time to time to completely quantify its electricity usage and assess its greenhouse gas emissions.

With a two percent reduction in emissions since 2008, Intuit is behind pace on its goal of a 15 percent reduction by 2012. Emissions were 96,000 MtCO2e in FY10, up from 92,000 in FY09.

The company says its GHG reduction initiatives have included on-site energy generation and efficiency initiatives at facilities with higher occupancy rates.

Its IT department has already engaged in drastic consolidation and co-location, the company says, and some data center operations have shifted to a facility in Quincy, Wash., that gets more than 90 percent of its electricity from hydropower. Intuit has achieved a 10-20 percent improvement in energy efficiency through upgrading the Hewlett-Packard Blade servers in existing equipment, and at its Westlake Village data center, the firm uses cold aisle containment, which it says can save up to 40 percent in annual energy costs over traditional cooling methods.

The company says it has also cut its relative energy usage in recent years by installing automated lighting control mechanisms and using automated heating/ventilating controls and timers. Energy audits led to de-lamping and LED lighting.

At four of Intuit’s U.S. buildings, facility managers reduced energy use by 6.6 percent in one year, resulting in over $68,000 in annual energy savings. The initiative reduced energy usage by 325,000 kilowatt-hours and avoided 189 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

According to the report, in 2008 Intuit saved 1.2 GWh from thermostat adjustments; in 2009 it saved 1.5 GWh from lighting replacements; and in 2010 it saved 120 MWh with Smart Power strips. Intuit said an HVAC initiative saved 150 MWh of energy at its HQ in 2008.

The company plans to install Bloom Energy fuel cells at its Woodland Hills, Calif., payment services facility, which has the highest per kWh cost of any of its U.S. sites. Using the cells will save Intuit $.04 per kWh, the report said. At least 75 percent of the fuel that Intuit will use for the first five years of the Bloom Energy fuel cell will be biogas, with the remainder coming from natural gas.

Intuit also plans to install solar panels and a solar hot water generator on one of the main buildings at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, and expects the project to help the building achieve at least LEED Silver certification. The company currently has six California buildings that have achieved LEED certification.

Intuit offers employees a social network for carpooling, vouchers for alternative transportation, electric vehicle charging stations, and special deals on renting Toyota Priuses when out of town. Since 2009, it has increased its use of video conferencing hours five-fold, to 3,761 hours per month.

The company says it has collected waste data since 2008 and expanded the number of waste categories and participating sites each year. In 2011 it collected waste data for Intuit facilities in five states.

Intuit says its landfill diversion is 60 percent. Its asset disposal vendor, Intechra, provides a quarterly environmental scorecard that helps the company track and reduce electronic waste. Since April 2011, Intuit’s Waste Watch program has encouraged employees to tell it about wasteful company practices – inspired by a YouTube video by a QuickBooks customer, who complained about the disproportionate amount of paper packaging he had received.

The company also runs Freecycle@Work, an app powered by Intuit’s QuickBase, to promote the concept of reusing products at work.

The firm says it is focusing on driving towards digital distribution for all its products; coordinating marketing launches to reduce environmental impact; cutting product packaging and using Forest Stewardship Council-certified materials where possible. It says it has already worked with supplies to remove bisphenol A (BPA) from point-of-sale receipts.

Intuit also aims to help its customers cut paper use by 1 billion sheets a year and says it’s nearly three-quarters of the way towards this goal.

The company says it is attempting to collect water usage data and has made some progress, but needs to collect more data and confirm its accuracy before it can report this information. It says that it has made improvements to water efficiency including using low-flow faucets and urinals, turning off fountains and using climate-controlled irrigation, and expects to use reclaimed wastewater for landscaping at its headquarters in the near future.

Intuit has hired a herd of goats from Healing Hooves, an Intuit small business customer, to clear land around the Quincy Data Center. The initiative costs slightly more than the use of chemicals, but is better for the environment, the company says. Meanwhile, landscaping at all Intuit sites in dry climates use native and drought-tolerant plants.

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