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Why Cisco, Why Solar, Why Now

In the past year, Cisco has significantly ramped up its use of renewable energy with a focus on solar.  We’ve been sharing these activities in press releases, blog posts, videos and our annual CSR report, but we haven’t talked about why – and these reasons are deeper than just a commitment to the environment.

Here’s a short summary of some of our recent activities with renewable energy:

  • Signed an agreement with NRG Renew LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NRG), to purchase the output of a 20 MW solar energy facility located in Blythe, California for our San Jose headquarters and surrounding Bay Area locations
  • Completed 4 on-site solar projects at our sites in Texas, Massachusetts, and Bangalore, India taking our total solar production capacity over 2 MW (see photos below)
  • Launched a solar discount program for employees and contractors, along with their friends and family, to simplify and reduce the cost of installing solar panels on their homes leading to over 50 installations totaling over 250 kW in less than 1 year
  • Joined the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles supporting the increase in accessibility to renewable energy along with many of our peers in the technology industry
Free standing solar PV array in the parking area of Cisco's campus in Boxborough, MA

Free standing solar PV array in the parking area of Cisco’s campus in Boxborough, Massachusetts

Solar PV array on top of Cisco’s data center in Allen, Texas

Why have we undertaken these activities?  Certainly, each of these actions are helping bring more renewable power on line, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving us toward a better environment.  But any company, in any industry, can make the same claim.  To be authentic, it has to hold a special significance related to why Cisco exists.

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Cisco’s People Going Solar at Home

The people of Cisco in the United States and Canada can now buy or lease solar power for their homes at a discount, thanks to an initiative between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Geostellar, an online marketer of solar systems.

The program uses bulk buying power to give employees, families, and friends access to solar power for their homes at a flat rate that is on average 35% lower than the national average and roughly 50% less expensive than the average electric utility rates. By providing both purchase and financing options, and a variety of panel choices, participants can select a system which meets their individual needs.  Kimberly-Clark, 3M, National Geographic, as well as other companies and cities are also participating.

The offer will be available to over 100,000 people of the participating companies; if just 1% of them choose to power their homes with solar, more than 74,500 metric tons of carbon emissions would be avoided each year – the equivalent of taking more than 15,000 cars off the road, according to a World Wildlife Fund press release.

Ali Ahmed's new solar installation in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ali Ahmed’s new solar installation in Cleveland, Ohio

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The Cisco Live! Green Plan

Cisco Live! 2014 will take place in San Francisco from May 19 to 22. Cisco is no stranger when it comes to finding new and innovative ways to support green initiatives such as energy conservation, sustainability and the smarter use of fiscal and natural resources. In fact, it’s been a part of how we have been doing business for years.

In recent years, organizations such as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and Greenpeace have ranked Cisco on top amongst other major IT companies.

Cisco Greenpeace
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Midsize Renewable Energy agency in India optimizes network for efficiency

Renewable energy

The World energy demand will be 41% higher in 2035 with India and China accounting for half the growth.

The development of renewable energy sources ranks as a key responsibility for the top economies in the world. India, as one of the top 5 emitters of greenhouse gasses, has prioritized the development of renewable energy resources.

Read More on how this Indian agency deployed a network that promotes energy conservation below.

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Trading Up to Lower Carbon in Bangalore

Electric trading markets that allow consumers to procure blocks of energy directly from generation providers have existed for a long time, but have tended to be in areas with highly stable distribution systems with access limited to large consumers.  Customer segmentation within electricity markets has therefore been limited, with utilities defining tariffs and establishing service reliability based on customer type: residential, commercial, or industrial.  However, technology platform enhancements have enabled smaller consumers to participate in electric trading markets and enabled system operators with a less stable grid to provide this service.

The result is that consumers, and not just the utility companies, can define the characteristics and pricing for their electric service. 

For Cisco, this change is allowing us to purchase electricity in one of our most important, but least reliable and highest-carbon locations — Bangalore, India — in a new way that reflects our requirements for availability and environmental impact.

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