CA mulling solar energy for India facility

Software vendor is evaluating the feasibility of converting its Hyderabad development building into a solar-powered site, as part of its global efforts to reduce the company's carbon footprint.

CA Technologies is evaluating plans to convert its Hyderabad, India, development facility into a solar-powered site, but says this option--if implemented--may not be necessarily appropriate for its other global locations.

Cynthia Curtis, CA
Cynthia Curtis, CA's chief sustainability officer

The company's Boston-based chief sustainability officer, Cynthia Curtis, said the initiative is part of a global strategy to reduce the company's carbon emission by 35 percent by 2020, using 2006 as the base year.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia in a phone interview this week where she is in Australia for customer meetings, Curtis said she began putting together a formal sustainability strategy after assuming her role in 2010.

One of the first things she was to get a better understanding of where the company actually stood in terms of its carbon footprint, which later involved restating 2006 as its baseline year. It then carried out a range of initiatives including "right-sizing" its real estate.

"Because we're a software company, our biggest issue is facilities and data centers including our research labs. Energy [needed to power these buildings] is our biggest challenge and contributor to our carbon footprint," she said. "So we re-scoped our office space. We employed smart-sizing, utilizing different types of furniture and layouts for our offices. This enabled us to shrink our real-estate footprint."

All new and renegotiated office leases also had to be assessed according to certain criteria such as building efficiencies, light-motion sensors, and recycling facilities. "We looked at lightings, for instance, taking out one of three light bulbs in some of our offices which were 'overlit'. We looked at parking lots which didn't need to be lit 24 by 7," Curtis said. "There were several what I call, low-hanging fruits, and it's amazing what you can achieve by driving such simple efficiencies."

By end-2011, it achieved a 25 percent reduction but this remained stagnant throughout 2012. She explained that the company was able to hit the initial high number because it had plugged all the "low-hanging fruits", referring to the quick-fix green initiatives it rolled out in the past two years.

"In order for us to take that next step and move beyond this plateau, we need to further operationalize sustainability throughout the company so it becomes part of the way we conduct business on a daily basis," she noted. Such efforts would include greater employee engagement and deeper utilization of CA's own sustainability products, she said, adding this would be part of the next phase of the company's sustainability strategy.

It adopts its own ecoSoftware sustainability software suite, which includes ecoGovernance and ecoMeter, to monitor, obtain real-time visibility, and manage its energy consumption. It will continue to implement the software across its data centers as well as deploy its ecoDesktop tool. The latter works like an asset management tool which includes features such as auto-shutdown and provides data on energy consumption by a desktop or server.

Tapping India's sunny disposition

According to Curtis, CA is currently evaluating plans to implement solar energy at its development facility in Hyderabad, India. Spanning 450,000 square feet of office space, the Hyderabad campus is the company's biggest technology and R&D center. 

It reviewed six submissions for the project last week and this number was cut down to three bidding companies, from which CA had requested additional information for further evaluation. 

Curtis underscored the importance of solar as another way for the software vendor to increase renewable energy and reduce carbon footprint. It also addresses the real-world problem regarding electricity shortage India currently faces, she said. 

She stressed, though, that the company's plans in this space is still exploratory and there is no timeframe on when it will begin implementing solar energy. 

She added that CA is evaluating the solar initiative specifically for its Indian operations, noting that this option may not be suitable for all locations. "With onsite renewable energy, it has to do with whether you own or lease [the facility]," she explained.

Curtis noted that CA has some 130 offices globally but owns only four of them, one of which is the Hyderabad building which is also the company's largest physical location. "Even if we had the option to roll out solar energy worldwide, it wouldn't necessarily make sense to do so.

Sustainability initiatives have got be about the returns on investment. We have to prove that, just like any investment our company makes.

"[The Hyderabad building is in a] location that's sunny all year round, and [where] we're being asked today by the government to switch over to our backup generators for an average of three hours a day," she explained, referring to the Indian government's efforts to relieve pressures from the country's power grid.

"The intermittent power supply there is unique to the area. We don't experience this level of discrepancy anywhere else in terms of power requirement versus availability."

Curtis said the company's sustainability efforts also vary by country or region because opportunities for energy efficiency gains differ among nations. In Europe, for instance, almost every building has motion sensors as a basic requirement, but this is not the case in the United States, she noted. 

CA's Hyderabad facility also captures 100 percent of rainfall and uses this for its landscape and irrigation, she said.

Asked if software vendors also have a role to play by building products which required less computing power and hence less hardware to power, Curtis said CA is focused on moving toward a cloud and on-demand delivery model such as SaaS (software-as-a-service) and IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service). This meant enterprise customers would not need to implement software on-site and buy additional hardware, she said.

"Not only is it about reducing their energy requirement and the associated costs, it's also about ensuring our customers are able to acquire the appropriate level of support. So it's [about adopting] a SaaS-first mindset. That's the model we have employed and the model we're accelerating," she added.

CA's software offerings are also designed to be distributed without the need for DVDs, she said, noting that 93 percent of its products currently are shipped electronically around the world. Some government requirements, though, mandate that certain software must be shipped via DVDs, she noted.

When queried on whether she receives a budget as CA's chief sustainability officer, Curtis said she gets a "very very small one". She stressed that ultimately, sustainability efforts also need to provide returns on investment (ROI) for a company.

"For larger initiatives we're looking at, like the solar project in Hyderabad, it still has to make business sense," Curtis said. "It has got be about the ROI and we have to prove that, just like any investment our company makes. We have to put forward a business case to why a particular business initiative is smart business. We're not granted any reprieve just because we're [about] sustainability. We're held to the same standards."