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Sharad Mehrotra

Sharad Mehrotra is CEO at Telenor India Communications.

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Journey Towards a Pollution Free and Green Environment

The Government of India has set the target to provide affordable and environment friendly 24x7 Power for all by the year 2019.

The Paris Agreement on climate change has set the tone for stricter norms to be followed by countries to limit their greenhouse gas emissions and contain the impact of global warming. While cities contribute to over 70% of the worldwide greenhouse emissions, they are also the epicentre of where green innovations are happening collaboratively through public private partnerships and usage of various low carbon solutions. According to World Bank, air pollution and other environmental degradation costs India $80 billion per year which is about 5.7% of the country’s GDP.

This can only be controlled if proper and stringent measures – both on ground and in policy governance -- are taken on time.

Green Telecom landscape in India

By 2020, ICT is expected to account for 3% of global greenhouse emissions worldwide and for around 0.8 % of global CO2 emissions. Though the share of greenhouse gas emissions from Fixed and Mobile ICT network is still below 2%, the increasing energy requirement of ICT seem to be a concern as they contribute directly towards carbon emissions.

As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), CO2 emissions from the sector has gone up due to increase in power consumption as the operators race to meet the demand for better coverage and better network quality.

The grid power availability has improved due to the progressive actions undertaken by the Government in the past few years. Telecom equipment is distributed across the geography of the country and typically consumes 8 - 15 KW per location. But the grid power availability is still not up to the mark especially in rural & remote areas and compels TSPs to use alternate sources of energy including diesel powered generator sets. The non-availability of uninterrupted grid power is a key reason for carbon emission from the telecom networks. As a result, only around 20% of the 4.5 lakh telecom sites are diesel free.

However, going green is a necessity for the sector as energy costs constitutes almost 25% of network op-ex. Clearly more needs to be done and the road ahead is not easy. But in an intensely competitive market where every penny counts to keep the business profitable and running, cost will be a consideration while going green.

Innovation in Technology taking the lead

Telecom operators have started modernising their network infrastructure with state of the art power efficient equipment. As part of the Telenor Group Climate Change Strategy, we intend to reduce the carbon intensity of our global operations by 40% by 2017 compared to 2008 level. Telenor has implemented several successful initiatives that have helped reduce energy use, emissions and costs. Large scale rollout of solar power supplies across our Asian business units will help us reduce yearly operational costs at each base station by 25-30%. In India, as our contribution towards sustainable telecommunication networks, we have modernised majority of our network sites. The new equipment deployed are the state of art and environment friendly which consumes 30% less power, provides better quality of coverage with higher spectral efficiency.

Additionally, measures like Environmental Management System have a huge focus towards controlling CO2 emissions. Today, it’s possible to have outdoor network sites which don’t need air conditioners. As per an estimate, in a base station around 50% of the power is only consumed by ACs. Non-AC sites can save significant power. We converted 5200 sites from Indoor to Outdoor in India, which eliminated the requirement for ACs. This resulted in reduction of 1.04 Lac ton of CO2 emissions. At this rate, around 130 GWHr of power can be saved, which is adequate enough to provide power to almost 4300 houses in rural India for an entire month.

Government’s role as a helping aide

The Government of India has set the target to provide affordable and environment friendly 24x7 Power for all by the year 2019. In view of such progressive developments towards 24x7 power availability in next 2-3 years, mandating to adopt alternative source of power such as renewable energy will be an additional avoidable cost for the telecom sector. The solar power generation has recently achieved the 10GW milestone and green power tariff are at record low. TSPs should not be mandated to implement the Renewable Energy technologies as these small capacity deployments have far less efficiency as compared to the mega deployments being undertaken by the government through mega solar or wind farms. Instead, choice for selection of technology to reduce carbon emission should be left to TSPs.

Like former President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam said, “Energy efficiency is the fifth fuel after wood, oil, nuclear and green source.” And, we are all committed to handover a greener and cleaner planet earth to our next generation.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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