In a shocking revelation, the land, rich of environmental resources, India was found to be listed among the bottom four countries in the Environmental Performance Index 2018 out of 180 countries. The list was prepared by Yale Centre for Environmental Law & Policy 2018, Yale University.
This means that India has to work really hard to climb up the ranks on this index. And to do so, India has to take immediate measures to combat air pollution. India is the second largest mobile phone market and also has over 500,000 telecom towers that are powered by diesel. A report by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said that the diesel-operated telecom towers emit about one percent of the country’s total carbon emissions. Although the percent value does not seem alarming currently, towers are in a way responsible in a way to add to air pollution.
Towers & its Environmental Impact
The main reason for global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere which causes the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG). This GHG is the result of excess utilization of energy by the telcos. As fossil fuel is one of the sources of GHG emission, the Telecom industry is one major contributor to the GHG. With the proliferation of towers, the consumption of fossil fuels like diesel has also increased. Excess use of energy through fossil fuel and its price hike have put the Telecom industry in difficult situations. Now there is a need to move towards the new energy efficient technologies and alternate sources of energy. This would help telecom network in ‘going green’ or to become environmentally friendly. Another situation is that in rural India, diesel powers more than 80% of telecom towers owing to the lack of grid power. Also, it has to be noted that scarcity of grid power in India affects network uptime.
Therefore, the use of green and renewable energy sources to power telecom towers as an alternative to diesel generators is the need of the hour. It has been researched that a solar solution not only reduces diesel consumption and associated maintenance costs but also helps lower the carbon footprint.
Operators & their commitments
Sourcing some information from the research paper published in the Journal of Telecommunications System & Management by Laxmi Gupta and Vivek Kumar Gupta it was found that in order to reduce the cost of operation and due to responsibility towards environment and society, many initiatives have been taken by Indian telecom players which includes ‘Green Power program’. The program explores the use of a wide range of technologies like biodiesel, fuel cells, Picohydro, wind and photovoltaic panels to fulfill the energy requirement for the telecom sector with less emission of carbon.
It is believed that Vodafone has adopted energy efficient approach for cooling base stations and to reduce the fuel consumption, alternating diesel battery hybrid mode. Along with this, there are some other efforts taken by Vodafone towards Green telecom that includes passive infrastructure solutions in which smart air conditioning method is employed to shut down the air conditioning when the outside air temperature is lower than 260C. Vodafone has successfully implemented solar powered sites, in which Vodafone has recorded a decrease in diesel dependency to the tune of 2.8 Mn kgCO2 per annum.
Airtel, on the other hand, has employed the concept of ‘Green shelters’ leading to major savings in energy consumption by its network in India. Other providers like Reliance, BSNL too have adopted a solar photovoltaic project to employ solar energy instead of conventional energy sources for powering up towers.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in 2017 released the renewed Consultation Paper on Green Telecommunications in India. The paper has highlighted that a target for reduction in Carbon Emission has been set as 30% by the year 2019-20 taking the base year as 2011-12 and 40% by the year 2022-23. The targets would be reviewed in the year again in 2022-23.
Before the next review, it is apparent that telecom tower operators and service providers have to show their significant contribution in achieving the target to reduce carbon footprint. Use of solar energy, alternative fuel sources like biodiesel and hybrid batteries have to be constantly explored and the telcos have been urged in allocate the necessary funds and resources to research and bring out actionable sustainable solutions.