Over the years, there has been an upsurge in energy consumption at telecom sites across the globe owing to the ever-increasing demand for telecom services. With energy accounting for a significant share of telcos’ opex, managing energy needs and optimising costs have become key focus areas for the industry. According to an industry report, global telecom network providers are expected to install nearly 121.9 GW of distributed renewable energy generation technologies and distributed energy storage systems between 2021 and 2030. Given the industry’s need to reduce its opex and carbon footprint, efforts are being made to minimise diesel consumption by exploring alternative and cost-efficient technologies, and adopting high efficiency storage solutions. In addition, renewable energy solutions have gained significant traction.
A look at the key developments in various countries in the energy management space…
Middle East and Africa
In June 2021, Polarium announced a new deal with ATC Africa, the African subsidiary of the American Tower Corporation (ATC). Under this, Polarium plans to establish a factory in South Africa to develop energy storage solutions. In this regard, Polarium has signed a multimillion dollar lithium-ion battery bulk purchase agreement with ATC to supply thousands of lithium-powered back-up solutions for ATC’s African markets over the next few years.
In December 2020, Evolution II Fund, Norfund and Sagemcom closed a $35 million commitment to establish ESCOTEL. Under this, ESCOTEL will provide clean energy services to African mobile tower owners and operators. The company will initially install, supply, operate and maintain decentralised solar and storage hybrid power systems for a portfolio of around 900 telecom sites in Sierra Leone, Liberia. Eventually, this will be expanded to the Democratic Republic of Congo. As per the business model, companies will hybridise existing power systems of telecom sites with the supply, installation and operations of solar and storage power systems, and deploy these cleaner power systems to new telecom sites. This will reduce over 6,240 tonnes of CO2 every year in Sierra Leone, and 10,092 tonnes of CO2 every year in Liberia.
In May 2021, SolarPower announced that it is supporting the activities of several subsidiaries of the Orange Group in the Middle East and Africa (MEA). The company is focusing on reducing its carbon footprint to zero by 2040. The solar panel solutions will be deployed in several MEA countries. So far, Orange has installed solar panels at 5,400 of its telecom sites, wherein some are 100 per cent solar and others hybrid. As per the company, it is saving around 55 million litres of fuel each year. Orange has also launched three solar farms in Jordan with the aim to meet 50 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2025, and to become net zero carbon by 2040. Meanwhile, in Dubai, Moro Hub signed an agreement with Huawei to build a solar-powered data centre. The new 100 MW facility will be located in the 3,000 MW Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park outside Dubai to the southeast of the city. As per Moro Hub, the new facility will be the largest solar-powered Uptime Tier III-certified facility in MEA. Furthermore, the South African government plans to add 30 GW of new generation capacity by 2030, as the country’s grid network is in critical need of refurbishment.
In terms of energy resources, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has enormous wind and solar potential. The region has a large number of remote and off-grid sites. Thus, there is immense scope for decarbonising the telecom sector. For instance, Saudi Arabia is a major MENA market with a high renewable energy potential. The UAE has two major operators, Etisalat and Du, both committed to greening the network through various initiatives. In Iraq, industry stakeholders are focused on bringing down diesel costs for operators.
The Southeast Asian countries are expanding their renewable energy infrastructure to meet their sustainable energy commitments. In March 2021, the Philippines’ Smart Communications announced its plan to roll out fuel cell sites in challenged grid areas across the country, starting from the second quarter of 2021 until the end of the year. To this end, it has entered into a partnership with Denmark-based renewable energy company SerEnergy, a developer and supplier of methanol-based fuel cell solutions. SerEnergy will install over 90 green cell sites for Smart Communications in poorly connected urban and rural locations. Smart’s partnership with SerEnergy follows its commitment to the Race to Zero campaign of the United Nations and GSM Association, as a member of the trade alliance’s Climate Action Task Force.
In June 2021, in Sweden, Northvolt and Polarium entered into a long-term partnership, wherein the former will supply lithium-ion battery cells to the latter. Polarium announced a new product range, “Green”, consisting of green energy storage solutions. The new product range is built on Northvolt lithium-ion battery cells. The Northvolt Ett gigafactory in Skelleftea, Sweden, will manufacture the batteries. In February 2021, Denmark approved a plan to build the world’s first energy island in the North Sea. The island will produce and store green energy to cater to the electricity needs of 3 million European households. In addition, the island will be linked to various offshore wind turbines and will supply power to households and green hydrogen to various sectors. Going forward, Denmark plans to set up an energy island in the Baltic Sea. The state will hold a controlling stake in both islands.
Meanwhile, Vodafone Europe announced its commitment to help its business customers to reduce their carbon emissions by 350 million tonnes globally by 2030. Vodafone Europe has announced that it will source 100 per cent renewable electricity for the company’s Green Gigabit Net fixed and mobile networks by 2025. Vodafone will also invest in captive power generation on site, mostly through solar panels.