Big Blue Goes Dark Green Through Energy Efficiency

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Energy conservation is the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to reduce a power bill. It works at home, and it works - really works - at the corporate level.

Check this out from IBM's just-released 2010 sustainability report. Energy-efficiency measures alone cut almost $30 million off Big Blue's power bill last year. That equated to a reduction of 272,000 megawatt hours of energy and 139,000 avoided metric tons of CO2.

The savings surprised the math whizzes in a corporation of math whizzes. They projected a 3.5 percent decline in energy use, but instead cut consumption 5.7 percent.

That's simply astounding. But we're not done. Energy-efficiency measures imposed since 1990 saved IBM $399 million - and those programs keep saving year after year. You tell me another investment with those kinds of returns?

On a smaller scale, but no less important is the city of Santa Barbara. Simply replacing motors and pumps at a pool saved $15,000 in annual power costs. Little things can have big results, especially to cities strapped for cash, businesses wanting to cut costs and homeowners looking for a break. Here is more on Santa Barbara's energy savings.

This is not surprising to us. Our nonprofit is working with 43 cities and counties in the I'm-spontaneously combusting-just-walking-to-my-car San Joaquin Valley to reduce energy consumption to the tune of almost 16,000,000 kWh. The cities are doing it through street light retrofits, installing more efficient lighting, changing out pumps and other relatively simple measures.

George Soros, Google and some big-money guys get it, but I'm not sure the pols in Washington D.C. do. While Corporate America is embracing energy conservation, legislation has been introduced to whack funding for clean energy and conservation by 40 percent.

Still, I'm hopeful. Big Business , the military and property owners are embracing efficiency. Billions of dollars can be saved, according to some reports. It makes so much sense. Eventually, the politicians will stop fighting over it, and energy efficiency will gain a foothold and take off.

I hope.