How is Adtran’s energy management strategy cutting costs and driving community impact?

How a suitcase-sized data logger and a surprise career change led to millions of dollars in savings.
Kelley Whalen
Green Earth

When giving presentations, I sometimes compare how we use electricity to how we use water. The latter is the more efficient system because we turn off the faucet once we’re done washing our hands. But the same can’t always be said for electricity. We all forget to switch off lights now and again, right? And most of us are guilty of leaving computers and other equipment running. Thankfully, we now live in a world where the importance of sustainable energy use is increasingly recognized. But it wasn’t always this way.

A journey toward energy efficiency

I became Adtran’s energy manager back in 2005. In fact, I remember exactly how and when I got the job. My boss asked me to determine how much power the company was using. The words he used as he handed me an energy data logger, a now obsolete, suitcase-sized machine, were, “You’re smart, Kelley. You’ll figure this out.” At that time, I was a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician , and in fact, it would kind of irk me to see units running at full power all day, sometimes in empty rooms. Without taking a single measurement, I knew we were hemorrhaging a fair amount of cash. So, I took the ball, or in this case, the data logger, and I ran with it.

Fast forward to 2024, and now I head up an incredible team. Since the day when I handed that first energy efficiency report over to my manager, we’ve achieved an almost 50% reduction in power consumption. We were at 40 million kilowatt hours per year. Now we’re at 22. As well as conserving energy, that translates to a saving of nearly 14 million dollars.

Energy Management infographic

Energy optimization is a win-win-win 

Energy reduction always starts with a plan, and often, we work with outside bodies to achieve our objectives. Last year, we joined the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Strategic Energy Management (SEM) program, a two-year initiative that involves industrial customers setting energy reduction targets to increase profits while boosting sustainability. Working with TVA and our local power supplier, Huntsville Utilities, we’ve already reduced Adtran’s energy consumption by 1,538,846 kWh, over six times our yearly target. TVA’s program is also linked to the educational system, meaning Adtran, through TVA’s Save It Forward program, has been able to nominate a local school, Buckhorn High School in Huntsville, to receive a cash award so they too can begin to make investments that put them on the road to becoming more energy efficient.

TVA’s project gets to the nub of what strategic energy management is all about. You’re creating a system that makes sense in three key ways: for your environmental obligations, for your bottom line and for your employees. We don’t need our people feeling too hot or too cold, so we don’t regulate HVAC use in a way that makes people uncomfortable. However, we do try to optimize the use of all our electrical equipment, including HVAC, and we’ve also introduced technology like automated LED lighting to reduce energy usage.

Far-reaching benefits

Because of our size, Adtran is an important player nationally in developing strategies that tackle the intricately related topics of energy management and climate change. Many of our SEM solutions are often simple and cost very little to implement. For example, by making the most of sunlight, we need less artificial light to illuminate offices. We also use our marketing department to nudge staff into making small changes that add up to significant savings. As the example of TVA’s SEM program illustrates, cooperation is the key to becoming energy efficient. And that’s something Adtran knows how to do. Working with our external partners and the fantastic people who make up Adtran’s national and global workforce, we continue to improve how we do business in a way that makes sense for profit, people and planet.

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