Go GREEN or go Home !!

I bet you did not know that the Barcelona Mobile World Congress was the world’s largest tradeshow certified to have a zero carbon footprint. The GSMA will certify the Congress as carbon neutral through the internationally recognised PAS 2060 standard. For several years, the GSMA has had climate change initiatives that have focused heavily on reducing waste in printed materials, encouraging the re-use and recycling of materials at the venue, utilising digital signage and electronic tools and working with Fira Barcelona, exhibitors and local partners to minimise the carbon footprint of the event. To achieve carbon neutrality, the GSMA undertook activities to reduce the carbon footprint and will then purchase carbon credits to offset any remaining emissions. Carbon credits purchased by the GSMA will fund several CER (Certified Emission Reductions) projects certified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including a hydropower project in China and a wind energy project in India, among others.

So what has this to do with us clever Telco people ?? Plenty…. unless you live under a rock you would know that telecommunications is supposed to reduce the need for transportation and the movement of people, as such total energy consumption should decrease in spite of the increased energy consumption needed for telecoms. Telco energy efficiency is such a critical issue that the GSMA Green Power for Mobile (GPM) programme, includes several initiatives such as awareness creation about the renewable technologies for telecom applications, CAPEX and OPEX analysis, vendor mapping and renewable energy market sizing. The goal of GPM is to assist the mobile industry in adopting renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, biomass, fuel cell or sustainable biofuels and hybrid power systems, in order to power an estimated 118,000 new or existing off-grid base station sites in the developing regions of the world. Reaching this target will reduce an estimated 2.5 billion litres of diesel consumption per annum and up to 6.8 million tonnes carbon emissions annually.

Due to an unreliable electrical power grid, Telcos / Tower Cos in Africa , India and other emerging markets use diesel generators, batteries and a variety of power management equipment to back-up the grid and ensure network availability. The growing cost of energy due to increasing diesel prices and concerns over rising greenhouse emissions have caused Telcos and TowerCos to focus on better power management methods. Mobile network operators (MNOs) spend approximately US$15 billion on their annual energy use. Therefore, it is no surprise that energy efficiency is becoming a strategic priority for them globally. As mobile use continues to grow,  so does the demand for energy, particularly by the network infrastructure.

So lets take a quick look at the REAL cost of Diesel.

A typical generator at a telecom site consumes 2.5 litres of diesel per run-hour. Add servicing ($0.76 per run-hour) and replacement ($1.05 per run-hour) costs to the fuel itself ($1.10 per litre) and you get a fully loaded cost of $4.56 per run-hour.In Nigeria there are currently about 24,500 operational base station sites:12,000 are connected to the grid, of which approximately 80% need generator backup for regular grid outages lasting anything up to six hours per day plus 7,000 are generator-powered 24/7.And of the remaining 5,500, the vast majority are diesel-battery hybrids, with just a handful of systems also using renewable energy.

For the purposes of our calculation, let’s assume that on average they run their generators for 12 hours per day. Pull that all together and diesel-related costs for existing sites add up to a staggering US$485M per year. And when you consider the country needs to increase the number of base stations to 60,000 by 2018, it’s putting increasing pressure on operators whose power-related operating costs are skyrocketing while their subscribers are simultaneously pushing for lower prices. And this is just for Nigeria – one country (all be it the most populated one) in a continent of 55.

Renewable Energy Technology ( RET ) solutions like solar photovoltaic, wind power, biomass and fuel cells are the technologies of choice for alternative solutions at telecom towers today. Hybrid solutions that combine diesel generators with RETs and batteries are being customised. Fuel cells are being installed as a standalone solution replacing the existing diesel generator. In a limited number of cases where electrical grid availability is close to 20 hours a day or more, the diesel generator at the tower site has been replaced completely by enhancing the existing battery capacity leading to improvement in economics and reduction of carbon emissions on site. Batteries are and will continue to be a key part of any backup power solution.

India is one country that has played a pioneering role in the field of energy efficiency. Some of the initiatives that have been implemented in India so far include passive infrastructure sharing, replacement of old base transceiver stations (BTS) with new generation BTS, usage of outdoor BTS, optimised cooling at shelter, usage of intelligent transceivers (TRXs), reduction of air conditioner load by using cold ambient air for shelter cooling and operating air conditioners using stored energy in the batteries to reduce diesel consumption and carbon emission are. In the last four years with the evolution of technology, the typical power consumption of BTS has dropped by about 60% .

Bharti Infratel claim their introduction of Free Cooling Units (FCU) used in place of air conditioners has contributed to reduction of 4.1 million litres of diesel usage annually after deployment across 6,318 of its 34,220 tower sites. Technologies like solar photovoltaic, wind power, fuel cell and other renewable or clean energy sources have been deployed in about 4,021 telecom sites in India. Approximately 1,000 Indus Towers sites use solar photovoltaic to augment the grid and diesel generated power.

Lets take another example : Nigeria and Ghana combined have a total of 30,000 + sites of which 50% are located in areas without commercial grid power , and mostly in rural and remote locations often with difficult accessibility for smooth and effective operations. Therefore , operation and maintenance of the network remains a big challenge affecting the cost of operations network availability and reliability of mobile telecommunication services. Network OPEX will depend on various operational factors including energy supply, equipment maintenance, operational efficiency and robustness. The right technology, robust systems, right supply chain integration coupled with regular monitoring and reporting will enable the MNO to achieve OPEX efficiency and improve profitability.

Operations and monitoring of deployed green power solutions is the most crucial part for guaranteed savings and expected performance.In addition the MNO’s must embed robust operational practices and a monitoring framework in order to address the challenges and mitigate the risks of theft, vandalism, and ensure site security. Site security is a major issue as there have been several cases of damage to tower assets across the region. This risk has hindered MNOs from investing in green power alternatives for powering the network. Thefts of equipment and fuel pilferage have affected the OPEX of telecom sites.

Meanwhile among the most developed nations the NTT group in Japan has worked hard on energy conservation, prompting them to introduce new sources of energy in the telecommunication field as part of the “Save Power” campaign from 1987. A total of 282 solar power systems generating a total power of 4,745 kW and 18 wind power generators producing a total power of 781 kW were introduced. NTT Facilities, which has taken responsibility for energy system design, architectural design, and building and energy management, proposed the new concept of “Green integration.” This concept involves global environment protection and is based on NTT Group’s past experience and expertise.

NTT Facilities has Green data centers, are operated in an environmentally friendly way and construction of the facilities are based on the “Green integration” concept. NTT Facilities has developed a FMACS airconditioning system, by taking into account the indoor air current, that can effectively cool such equipment, and the system eliminates high temperature areas and reduces the amount of energy consumed for air conditioning. NTT also architected and deployed a MICRO GRID which combines various distributed power such as fuel cells, solar cells, and NaS batteries. The energy control system operates the distributed generators to control the influence on the commercial electric power lines wherein the micro grid is connected. This control system also optimizes the generation scheduling in terms reducing cost and environmental impact.

So what’s the point of all this ?? GO GREEN OR GO HOME…unless you are fond of having 35% + of your monthly OPEX going up in diesel fumes !!

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )


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