by Lisa Banks

Green IT week: NAB tri-gen plant saves 20,000 tonnes of carbon PA

Jun 03, 2010
CareersInnovationIT Leadership

The National Australia Bank (NAB) is encouraging other businesses to adopt tri-generation cooling strategies to reduce carbon footprints as part of their long-term ‘green’ IT strategy.

NAB data centre manager, Glenn Allen, spoke with CIO during green IT awareness week about the motivation behind the installation of NAB’s Victorian tri-gen plant and how it has helped reduce the bank’s carbon footprint.

“Our tri-gen plant is in Victoria and Victoria has one of the highest carbon footprints in the country. Therefore, our carbon footprint was very high and our data centres were very high in energy use”, he said.

Allen said the tri-gen plant project is tracking well and the original ROI has been reduced by three months in duration.

“We’ll bring it in under five years now; we’re quietly confident. Five years and three months was our target but that was done more around the CPI model,” he said.

The NAB’s initiative was the first of its kind in Australia and Allen said it faced a number of hurdles for this reason. Despite this, he thinks the trend to tri-generation will continue due to the success of the project.

“A lot of challenges were related to the fact we were the first data centre in Australia to do this,” he said.

“I believe this is a trend and it’s definitely going to continue, but when you’re the first one who says ‘we’re going to put a generation plant in and change our grid supply’, we needed to ensure both side worked and were protected. Our IT load and the grid.”

The move to the tri-generation plant has saved 20,000 tonnes in carbon a year and is part of the NAB’s larger green IT strategy. Last month, NAB CTO, Thor Essman spoke in Sydney about how the bank has cut travel expenses by 40 per cent and Allen emphasised this will be achieved through greater use of video conferencing.

“We’re integrating end-to-end our IT,” he said. “We’re changing the dynamics of our technology. We’re looking at OCS [office communications server] video conferencing to reduce our footprint in flights and we’re getting really good feedback.”

Allen said branches in rural locations will benefit most from the move to video conferencing, with staff travel time being cut in half.

“We thought we’d have a lot of success out of linking our big centres, but we’re getting a lot of feedback from our rural people. They’re doing hundreds, and even thousands of kilometres a week and even low-end video conferencing capability will cut that in half,” he said.

Allen is optimistic other companies could be successful in moving to a tri-gen strategy and has recently seen other data centres emerging in Melbourne. He does, however, stress different models must be developed for businesses based on their location and carbon footprint.

“A company would probably make a different decision if they were in a different state like Western Australia because the carbon footprint of that state is lower.”

He said technology often enables greener workplace choices.

“Technology is the key enabler of green capabilities within an organisation and that’s one thing we’re quite strong on. It is important to find the best way that technology can take carbon out of their footprint.”