Operators outline road to net zero

Operators at Better World Summit 2021, Green ICT for Green Development, outlined how they are taking on the challenge of designing for a greener future.

Telcos can use technology to transform their energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and eventually move the telco industry to net zero operations, conference attendees at BWS 2021 Green ICT for Green Development heard today.

Huawei organised the Summit to examine the role that technology can play in the move towards a greener planet. It assembled investors, CSPs and other stakeholders to explore how industries can innovate for a greener future.

Introducing the event, Bob Cai, CMO of Huawei’s Carrier Business Group, said that the company is committed to assisting carriers in energy conservation and emission reduction through innovation in products and solutions.

“We introduced this forum as more and more countries are paying more attention to carbon emissions and the green world.  We know many regions and countries still need to develop connectivity and computing capabilities to drive economic growth, but on the other hand we have to lower carbon emissions as much as possible, to balance economic development with power consumption” Cai said.

“So here we believe we need a platform to invite partners and experts to discuss the path to the green world, and we are willing to work with all our partners to discuss how we move forward.”

Several telco partners spoke at the conference. Dr Ahmed Bin Ali SVP Corporate Communications, Etisalat, said that amongst its initiatives, the operator had introduced hybrid site solutions at over 400 sites in the UAE, saving fuel consumption by 14 million litres. Hybrid systems in Egypt had saved fuel usage by 50%. In Afghanistan, replacing classical battery storage with super capacitors had resulted in 35% energy savings at the affected sites.

Dirk Karl, CEO and Procurement office, MTN Group, said that the Group already reduced CO2 emissions by 6% in 2020, compared to 2019, and is targeting reductions of 47% by 2030 and, to be net zero by 2040. A trial of energy management solutions delivered via Huawei’s new PowerStar solution had seen OPEX savings and energy usage reductions at 5,000 trial sites. Karl added that aside from making its own direct efforts to reduce energy usage and increase efficiency, MTN is seeking direct commitments from its partners and suppliers, so that it is not displacing carbon emissions into the supply chain. It is targeting 150 “active collaborations” with its vendors in sustainability.

Orange’s Energy Challenge and Strategy

One of the key presentations in the event came from Oranges Hervé Suquet, who outlined how he is leading efforts at the operator to enable all operating companies within the group to hit sustainability targets. 

Mr. Hervé Suquet, Orange Group Energy SVP, has been leading Group efforts to build, pilot and coordinate a Green ICT program that will master cost evolution while the operator reaches its target to be 50% on renewable Energy by 2025, and net zero carbon by 2040.

Hervé Suquet said that the overall challenge facing Orange is to reduce energy usage, which brings with it a cost reduction but also a reduction in CO2 emissions. Its energy target is part of its commitment to make sure that the digital services it provides are made available and used in a more sustainable way, and part of its overall environmental commitments.

Herve Suquet speaking at BWS 2021 Green ICT for Green Development

Orange’s Engage 2025 strategy commits it to Net Zero by 2040. As a first step to that long term goal, it wants its CO2 emissions in 2025 to be 30% lower than the 2015 level. It has also committed to sourcing 50% of its energy from renewable sources. In a further step towards sustainability, it said that any Orange branded products, such as in-home CPE, will adhere to an eco-design approach.

The challenge facing Orange is that although it wants to reduce its energy usage and CO2 emissions, it also expects to need 26% more energy in 2023 than it needed in 2019, as it meets rising demand for internet-related traffic and applications.

That increase in power demand is therefore largely driven by the power demands of its network – and within the network 80% of the power budget is accounted for by the RAN.

To push that action, Orange is putting in place a “clear and committed governance model” to provide clear direction to all its business units and country operations within the Group.

This includes sharing an energy sourcing and negotiation strategy, a green ICT program to identify technical ways to help reduce consumption, and a Scale Up program that identifies where savings can be made. All of this is curated as a shared initiative that helps countries implement an Energy Action Plan and empowers them to adopt joint initiatives where that is relevant.

Under his leadership, Orange group will model progress via an Energy Dashboard, which tracks four KPIs. The first is a measure which measures IT and Network energy OPEX as a percentage of revenue. Two KPIs track technical efficiency. One is to measure network energy use in terms of kWh per Gb delivered. The Dashboard also creates a Power Usage Effectiveness, which is a standardized measurement of Data Center efficiency. Finally, there is its Renewable Energy Radio – the amount of renewable energy that is included in its energy mix.

In fact, Orange has over 50 actions that it has identified across its technical domains, such as activating those RAN energy savings features, renewing and swapping old equipment, RAN sharing and adding solar to the grid. Similar actions extend across the transport network and into the data centres, and also into non-network areas such as buildings management and road fleet electrification. Each country can select the moves that will bring the most benefits, and that is all tracked in quarterly benchmarking reports.

“Each country selects the most relevant one and we build a benchmark to check progress. Some of the actions are identified as very important and we ask them to report directly on that action,” Hervé Suquet said.

Finally, Hervé Suquet is clear that Orange’s infrastructure partners, i.e. the vendors, must have energy efficiency as a core part of their own DNA, providing solutions for the operator themselves. “Handling energy as a pass-through without efficiency incentive (economic & ecologic) is not acceptable anymore,” he said.

Having heard the operator plans, requirements and trials so far, Huawei’s Aaron Jiang, Vice President of Wireless Product Line, Huawei, updated on his company’s recently-launched green network initiatives, including its Powerstar 2.0 and GreenSite solutions.

These include its MetaAAU (Active Antenna Unit) and wideband RRU. MetaAAU is a newly launched ultra-wideband antenna that can be used at a site instead of deploying multiple RRUs covering different bands. The “massive antenna arrays” and ultra-wideband power amplifiers and hardware units integrate multiple single-band devices into a single box with an ultra-compact form factor. This enables more bands to be supported with the same level of power consumption, and reduced wind loading on towers. A highly integrated design – Signal Direct Injection Feeding (SDIF) – also reduces the amount of cabling required between the antennas and the radio, therefore reducing associated power loss by 20%.

Huawei also announced products designed to reduce the OPEX and power demands of mobile sites. It has a new outdoor cabinet, the APM5950, that is designed to take away the need to install air conditioning – responsible for up to 30% of a site’s power usage – in indoor equipment rooms. The site comes with solar power and lithium batteries for back-up, rather than a diesel generator.