Energy Efficiency Measures Saved AT&T $44 Million In 2010

Telecommunications giant AT&T announced the results of its 2010 energy efficiency efforts today. According to the company’s own report, it saw $44 million in annualized energy savings as a result of implementing 4,200 energy efficiency projects at its facilities last year. These included familiar technologies that, pervasively applied, made a big difference, like:

    Swapping incandescent light bulbs with light emitting diodes (LEDs) at 1,100 cell sites

    Removing switches and upgrading networks at 11 offices, reducing the company’s network-related power consumption by some 300,000 kilowatt hours

    Using desktop power management software on 169,000 computers

AT&T has done some form of environmental accounting (corporate social responsibility or CSR reports as they’re referred to now) since at least 1995, so they have some cred. The timing of this green news, however, seems part of a strategic effort to win the public, and institutional investors’ favor at a challenging time. The company has generated a mixed bag of headlines of late.

On the upside, AT&T rolled out new wireless internet billing options for tablet users, struck a deal that brings AT&T hotspot access to the Nintendo 3DS, and another deal with Placecast to offer location based shopping alerts.

On the downside, the company’s facing legal woes, reputation management issues and competition from Verizon. This week, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling that was keeping AT&T safe from some scrutiny by competitors.

As reported by James Vicini for Reuters, AT&T had to turn over files to the government in past investigations about the way it, perhaps inappropriately, billed schools for internet services while participating in a federal program to help schools and libraries get internet access. The FCC then disclosed some of the files to competitors who directly requested them.

Here’s what the court’s blog said of the new decision:

“The Court rule[d] unanimously that corporations, as artificial persons, are not given a right of “personal privacy” that shields from public disclosure records that they have had to turn over to government investigators…”

AT&T has also generated a bad mojo meme after one of the company’s billing agents, according to The Consumerist, told a family suffering from the loss of their patriarch that that they had to upgrade their service to the AT&T Uverse plan in order to change the bill holders’ name. (The bill had been under the father and husband’s name.)

Finally, AT&T is still navigating the waters of a market where it’s not the only provider of service for the iPhone and iPad.

Is sustainability enough to keep consumers and investors with AT&T? Environmentalists would like to make the case that at the very least, energy efficiency programs and other CSR efforts encourage brand loyalty.