Carbon credit policy for telecom sector

Government asks service providers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

By Ankur Paliwal
Published: Tuesday 17 January 2012

With an aim to minimise carbon emissions from the fast-growing telecom sector in India, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked service providers to frame a Carbon Credit Policy, detailing methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The directions were issued on January 4 after much deliberation over the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in its report, Approach towards green telecommunications, submitted last year.

The department has also asked the service providers to power at least 50 per cent of all rural towers and 20 per cent of the urban towers with hybrid power (renewable energy technologies and grid connected power) by 2015. Further, 75 per cent of rural towers and 33 per cent of urban towers are to be hybrid powered by 2020. The service providers will have to declare the carbon footprints of their network operations to TRAI twice a year.

The department has directed Telecommunication Engineering Centre, a technical body under DoT, to certify all telecom products and equipments by 2015. “They will be given a ‘green passport’ on the basis of energy efficiency of the product,” says Robert J Ravi, advisor, TRAI.  “Service providers have been asked to reduce carbon emissions five per cent by 2013, eight per cent by 2015, 12 per cent by 2017 and 17 per cent by the end of 2019,” he adds. 
Telecommunications sector has a carbon footprint because their operations require electrical power. Also, conventional grids emit greenhouse gases, more so in the rural areas where availability of power is uncertain and diesel generators are used to ensure continuous power supply. According to TRAI, India has around 3,10,000 telecom towers, of which about 70 per cent are in rural areas. At present, 40 per cent power requirements are met by grid electricity and 60 per cent by diesel generators. The information and communications technology (ICT) industry alone accounts for about two per cent or 860 million tonnes of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenpeace, a non-profit, which has been campaigning to reduce carbon emissions from the sector, has welcomed the move. “Now we need to scale up the ambition to ensure a complete phase-out of diesel from the sector,” says Mrinmoy Chattaraj, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace India. Greenpeace in its briefing paper, Telecommunication- switch off diesel, mentions that the Indian telecommunications industry is one of the fastest growing in the world and India is projected to become the second largest telecom market globally by 2011-2012 with gross revenue exceeding Rs 158,000 crore and a growth rate of 45 per cent.

“This growth, however, has and continues to be at the cost of the climate, powered by an unsustainable and inefficient model of energy generation and usage. It has also come at significant and growing loss to the state exchequer, raising questions on the future business and operation model of the telecom sector,” adds Chattaraj. Currently, the sector requires 14 billion units of electricity annually to power its growing infrastructure network in order to provide uninterrupted service to its consumers. The telecom sector in India (public, private, Indian and foreign), through its operations powered by diesel, is responsible for 5.2 million tons of CO2 emissions (annually and responsible for over two per cent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.


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