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Green Power for Mobile session at Mobile World Congress 2009, Barcelona

Starting bright and early on Wednesday morning, after an exciting late evening at the Mobile Awards Gala dinner, GSMA Development Fund organized an excellent session on Green Power for Mobile. Speakers included companies such as BP Solar, Dialog Telekom, Digicel, Nokia, Ericsson, Telefonica, Bergey Windpower, and Safaricom.

A recent GSMA study has found that an estimated 75,000 off grid sites out of a total of 300,000 sites will be built each year in developing countries through 2012. Developing countries are key to the telecommunications industry as this is where the next billion users are expected to come from. The mobile world took 15 years to connect 1 billion users and we are expected to connect the next billion within the next 2-3 years. So Green Power and energy efficiency will be key ingredients of success.

Green Power for Mobile today become more viable, especially in off grid situations which rely on diesel. The more remote the location- the higher the cost of diesel (transportation over rough terrain, via helicopter, more vulnerable to theft, etc). This increases the business case for going green and shorter payback, especially for low loads. Haiti alone spends about $11 million just for diesel to power telecommunications, so going solar and wind makes sense, according to Digicel.  As tested technologies, BP Solar and Bergey WindPower were two companies with much experience in the telecommunications field, who presented their solutions.

In parallel to working on green power, it is equally important to work on energy efficiency. The more efficient the equipment, the greater the potential to use renewable energy to power the equipment. Interesting companies such as CellMax, VNL, STM and others were prominent on the exhibition floor. Hybrid power management companies such as PowerOasis were also presented as viable options.

The seminar presented service providers who were either already actively involved in Green Power for Mobile or piloting solutions with GSMA. Dialogue Telekom in Sri Lanka, Digicel in the Pacific Islands, Safarikom in Kenya and Telefonica in South America shared experiences as service providers going Green. Lessons learnt included the need for establishing clear KPIs, to design for Green at the outset and not as an afterthought, understanding the business case for ongrid and offgrid Green ICT, using hybrid solutions for now until renewables become more reliable, etc. The CTO of Dialogue offered a comprehensive approach to KPIs to include a combination of 4 factors: Economics (CAPEX, OPEX, ROI), Operation (Reliability, expertise, etc), Environment (C02 emissions, sustainability, etc) and Technology Viability (wind, solar, hybrids, etc). He felt that we needed economies of scale or volume production to bring costs down and he felt it is important to consider if it makes sense for service providers to be in the business of producing green energy. Going Green involves much experience in designing for green, telemetry to monitor climate changes, experience in maintaining sites and managing against thefts (particularly for solar).

According to Bergey Windpower, apart from remote or isolated sites e.g. on islands, forests or hills, CAPEX remains an issue. When price of diesel is reasonable, it can often one Green site costs as much as 5 diesel sites. So it is a challenge for the CEO to convince the CFO to go Green. Payback of 2 to 5 years is often hard to justify to a CFO in these hard economic times. New players and new sources of funding e.g. Venture Capitalists, Banks or EXXIM banks are clearly needed to drive this industry. Government can also play a role in offering incentives and aggregating carbon credits in this industry to make it more viable.

Meanwhile, Telefonica, Nokia and Ericsccon also shared the need to take a comprehensive approach to Green. Telefonica for example, has a goal to reduce by 30% its kw/equipment by 2012. It is working to ensure that they go Green at the operation, employee, supplier, customer and society side of the equation. For example, it has solar rooftops for most of its campuses. Ericsson targets to reduce its carbon footprint by 40% over the next 5 years. It has been working on innovative designs such as concrete base stations with buried batteries (to extend life), vertical wind blades, etc. Meawhile, Nokia is involved in the largest take back program in the mobile industry and works on educating customer and employees to change their behavior to save the Planet. Ericsson spoke about how design of equipment to be energy efficient, and able to work at room temperature, etc. and corporate social responsibility is key as we move to the converged device.

Overall, the session was worth waking up early for. The next GSMA Green for Power Working Group session for operators will be on the 31st March in Dubai.

This article was posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 10:53 pm You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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