Energy Conservation and Management
The Postal Service’s inventory of over 33,000 buildings, totaling 280 million square feet of floor space, is the largest retail network in the country. It takes a lot of energy to run all those facilities.
In FY 2011, our energy costs were over $577 million, as we consumed 25 trillion BTU. That is nearly the amount of energy it takes to power 270,000 homes a year. Because of our facility energy requirements, we have both a business need and an environmental responsibility for conservation and efficiency.
We have aggressive energy reduction targets and are making significant progress in lowering energy consumption and cost.
Facility energy reduction
We established two facility energy targets: to reduce both our total facility energy consumption and our facility energy intensity 30 percent by FY 2015 using FY 2003 as the baseline. We continued to make progress toward our FY 2015 targets even with a slight increase in facility energy use during 2011. As a federal agency, the Postal Service has aligned our facility energy targets with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
How does an organization with hundreds of thousands of employees and tens of thousands of buildings go about reducing energy? No one-size-fits-all technology or approach works for such a large and diverse business as the Postal Service.
Our energy management practices include improving our understanding of how we use energy so we can make informed decisions, investing in our buildings with energy efficient technology and fostering a conservation culture.
Energy measurement and auditing efforts have driven development of energy management systems to better quantify and evaluate our energy use. Our Utility Management System now provides data on approximately 75 percent of USPS utility consumption. Utility cost and consumption data are used along with our Enterprise Energy Management System data, which helps us measure, monitor and compare facility energy use.
USPS continually checks its energy performance tracking methods. After submitting the FY 2011 Annual GHG and Sustainability Data Report to the federal government, our further review discovered inconsistencies in the way heating fuels are identified in source data systems. In FY 2012, we are evaluating the effect of accounting for the discrepancy. If a resulting change in total BTU consumed or energy intensity in BTU/GSF is significant, USPS will restate this performance in the 2012 Annual Sustainability Report.
This information, along with data from the completion of over 350 energy audits in 2011, enable us to better target energy investment projects and facility energy management opportunities.
Facility energy impacting projects totaled over 1,000 by the end of 2011, producing an impressive achievement — an estimated energy reduction of 1 trillion BTU per year. That is expected to result in annual savings of $22 million.
We continued to employ rigorous technical and financial evaluation processes to review our buildings for energy improvement, capital investment funding and energy impacting repair and alterations projects.
Two examples highlight our facility energy investment achievements during 2011 are:
The 392,000-square-foot Detroit network distribution center was upgraded with advanced lighting and heating/cooling systems. The change saves nearly $470,000 and 34.8 billion BTU in energy, almost equal to 350 U.S. households annually.
The building was retrofitted with energy-efficient fluorescent lighting. Also, photo sensors enhance the work environment with natural light and occupancy sensors eliminate unnecessary lighting.
The boiler and chiller plant, along with dozens of air handler units, were upgraded to avoid unnecessary heating and cooling, saving energy and water. Digital controls automatically program thermostats and allow outside air intake, providing “free” cooling during temperate weather. Large fans were installed to provide better air mixing. Water-efficient, low-flow aerators on lavatory faucets save water and heating costs.
The Palatine, IL, Processing and Distribution Center is saving $510,000 annually due to lighting and heating/cooling system upgrades. The 591,000-square-foot facility yielded annual savings of nearly 25.2 billion BTU in energy, equal to 250 U.S. households annually.
Computerized lighting controls and energy efficient fluorescent fixtures were installed throughout the workroom floor. Occupancy sensors were put in administrative and support areas to eliminate lighting unoccupied space. HVAC upgrades included digital controls to improve outside air intake and automatically regulate thermostats.
New variable speed drive fans and pumps run only when needed, avoiding unnecessary energy use. These improvements reduce energy and water evaporation loss during cooling tower operations.
As we look to the future, continued capital investment in energy project funding must take into account our current financial constraints. Consideration of alternative financing, including exploring renewable energy opportunities, where cost effective, may offer competitive financial and environmental benefits.
Fostering a conservation culture remains key to our corporate energy management effort. By purposefully integrating our energy data collection tools to specific facility energy opportunities, along with educating and promoting employee energy awareness, we strive to continuously drive behavioral change within our organization.
Data Center and IT Network Services
Data centers may consume 10 to 100 times more power than a typical office building. Over the past several years, the Postal Service has consolidated its data center operations into two locations: Eagan, MN, and San Mateo, CA. We have begun benchmarking data center operations by measuring power usage effectiveness (PUE), which characterizes overall data center efficiency.
The PUE is becoming the standard performance benchmark in data center energy management. It will help manage our data center energy footprint and environmental impacts along with the ever increasing need to upgrade information technology services. We have implemented a number of energy efficiency practices, including virtualization, or running different operating systems on the same hardware, as well as improvements to cooling, heating and temperature control systems.
IT services group continues to introduce green network strategies. The Postal Service network supports and maintains nearly 125,000 desktop computers, 21,000 notebook computers and 85,000 printers. Our network printers have the default set to duplex printing (front and back). Paper is made from a minimum 30 percent post-consumer recycled content and the Postal Service has an established recycling program for ink and toner cartridges. IT has consolidated the purchasing options for printer, copier, fax machine, and multifunctional device to better manage equipment quality and network support services. Power-saving mode and energy-efficient monitors have been incorporated into employee computer workstations.
These features all act to reduce energy and the purchase of consumables, key Postal Service performance targets. The widespread use of online web and video conferencing services continues to accelerate internal communications while reducing employee travel and our carbon footprint. The Postal Service has become the second largest user of Cisco Unified MeetingPlace™ services, with an average of 10,000,000 minutes per month.