Telcos require 64TWh renewable electricity by 2030 to improve services
•UN wants mobile industry to decarbonise 70% of its electricity use
While it has hailed the commitment of telecommunications operators in European countries for maximizing the use of renewable energy in their networks, the Global System for Mobile telecommunications Association (GSMA) is worried that such has not been replicated in Africa.
Specifically, GSMA said European networks are leading globally, purchasing an average 71 per cent renewable energy, adding that mobile networks in 41 of the 86 countries surveyed use more than 75 per cent renewable energy.
GSMA, which revealed this at COP27 in Egypt, noted that mobile networks in 29 of the 86 countries use less than 25 per cent renewable energy adding that 32 per cent of renewable used by operators is procured through power purchase agreements with energy generators, while 63 per cent is achieved via renewable energy certificates from electricity markets and four per cent results from self-generation of renewable electricity.
The telecoms body, in a survey indicated that access to an additional 64 terawatt-hours (TWh) of renewable electricity – roughly equivalent to Austria’s yearly energy usage – will be required by operators globally by 2030, as they seek to decarbonise their energy supplies and boost services.
GSMA said the mobile industry was among the first to commit to achieving Net Zero by 2050, and since COP26, mobile operators have been scaling up the amount of renewable electricity used to power their networks to meet science-based targets.
The telecoms body, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, including Nigeria, uniting over 750 operators with near 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, said the figures showed that operators in Europe and North America have been able to both access and scale up the amount of renewable electricity used to power their networks in recent years.
In contrast, accessing renewable electricity is still a challenge in many countries, shown by lower market-based regional figures across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America.
Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA, John Giusti, said: “Operators are making meaningful progress in the use of renewables to power communications networks. However, given the scale of demand, the GSMA calls for greater collaboration between the private and public sector to expand the renewable energy infrastructure needed to hit our net zero ambitions. This will require reducing regulatory barriers, supporting market-based mechanisms to access renewable electricity and incentivising investment in new renewable power generation.”
GSMA further explained that initiatives such as Vodafone’s recently-announced power purchasing agreement to buy renewable energy generated by three new solar farms in the UK, have shown that co-ordinated action with national policymakers and energy generators is possible to ensure that more renewable energy can be rapidly added to electricity grids over the next decade.
Vodafone Chief External and Corporate Affairs Officer, Joakim Reiter, said: “After switching Vodafone’s European networks and operations to renewable energy, we are also making important strides in Africa. But accelerating the industry’s transition to renewables everywhere, in a more equitable way, will require significantly greater co-operation between the public and private sector.
Governments increasingly embrace the enablement potential of telecoms itself to reduce carbon across society. This should go hand-in-hand with leveraging the telecoms sector to attract long-term investments in renewable energy generation, increasing its availability and accessibility as part of national plans to enhance energy security and stimulate future-proof economic and social development.”
GSMA said based on research by the UN RaceToZero for COP26, the mobile industry should aim to decarbonise 70 per cent of its electricity use by 2030.
It noted that governments meeting at COP-27 should grasp without delay the opportunity that renewable electricity provides to support the private sector achieving its net zero targets. More needs to be done to match the business demand for renewable and generate long term energy agreements, improving grid capacity and investor confidence.