Can’t switch to renewable energy: telecom operators

Country’s varied topography, space constraint make it an uphill task, they say

 
By Ankur Paliwal
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

The telecom industry is finding it difficult to implement the recent directions issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on cutting carbon emissions. DoT had issued directions on January 4, wherein it asked the service providers to frame a Carbon Credit Policy detailing methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In its directions, DoT had told the telecom operators that at least 50 per cent of all the towers in rural areas and 20 per cent of the urban towers are to be powered by hybrid power (renewable and grid connected) by 2015, and further that 75 per cent of rural towers and 33 per cent of the urban towers are to be powered by hybrid power by 2020. “It may not be the ideal solution as due to a varied topography across the country, many regions may not get requisite portion of solar and wind supply,” says Priya Sawhney Mohindru, deputy director, Cellular Operators Association of India.

Why the opposition

The telecom operators say

  • Due to varied topography across the country, many regions may not get requisite portion of solar and wind supply
  • The required equipment and technology to manage the emissions would also be difficult to incorporate into every base station tower due to space constraint
  • The typical power generation capacity of a solar power system is about 2-3 KW which is only suitable for sites where only single operator is present, which is hardly the case in India. The country has around 13 operators and generally two or three operators share a tower. Following directions would mean reduction in the sharing of sites in a big way. This would eventually result in deployment of higher number of sites and consequently higher carbon emissions
  • DoT directive that all service providers should declare their carbon footprint of the each network to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India twice in a year will pose a huge logistical cost challenge for the industry which is already reeling under pressure of declining profit margins
 
The required equipment and technology to manage the emissions would also be difficult to incorporate into every base station tower due to space constraint, she adds. Mohindru elaborates, due to space and other techno-economic constraints, the typical power generation capacity of a solar power system is about 2-3 KW which is only suitable for sites where only single operator is present, which is hardly the case in India. The country has around 13 operators and generally two or three operators share a tower. So, mandatory application of this direction would result in reduction in the sharing of sites in a big way. This would eventually result in deployment of higher number of sites and consequently higher carbon emissions.

Telecom associations also argue that more rational way of cutting emissions would be to cultivate large renewable energy facilities in open areas outside cities and connect them to the grid. This can be channelled to the base stations for use as a power source. It will help in negating the space constraint issue within a city. The service providers expressed reservations over the DoT directive that all service providers should declare their carbon footprint of the each network to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) twice in a year. “It will pose a huge logistical cost challenge for the industry which is already reeling under pressure of declining profit margins,” says Mohindru. In line with international practices, declarations should be made on annual basis, she adds.

Operators associations say they are already switching to use of green technologies and exploring the use of bio-diesel fuel cells, wind and photo-voltaic panels to reduce power consumption and operating expenses. 

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.