Electricity used to power mobile networks is often sourced from fossil fuels. Switching to renewable electricity, whether onsite or through the grid, is one of the fastest ways for mobile network operators to decarbonise.
This section provided technical advice to enable operators to decide which type of renewable electricity to source, as well as case studies from operators who have already successfully switched.
Across the APAC region, an average 25% of electricity generated through grids is from renewable sources. However, GSMA figures show that operators are currently purchasing around 5% of renewable electricity (RE) to power their networks. Given barriers to companies accessing RE, concerted collaboration is needed between policymakers, energy generators and the corporate sector to increase RE capacity.
Mobile networks in Europe are leading globally as they are powered by 71% renewable electricity, on average. Mobile network operators in Europe are also increasingly transitioning from renewable energy certificates to long-term power purchase agreements to secure their renewable energy requirements.
Both the level of renewables on the grid and the amount mobile network operators are currently purchasing are currently low across the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, at less than 5%. With COP27 in Egypt, and COP28 planned for the UAE, it is hoped this will spur greater focus and investment in renewable energy capacity across the region.
On average, electricity grids across North America generate 25% of their electricity from renewables. Network operators in the region have scaled up renewable electricity usage and are currently using 43% on average. Operators continue to expand their use of power purchase agreements, for example supporting new solar farm creation.
The Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region currently generates 22% of its grid electricity through renewables and mobile operators directly purchase 7% RE on average to power networks. Improving market access to companies for renewable electricity would help turn their purchasing power into support for boosting RE capacity across the region.
In Uganda, mobile network operator MTN has installed 240,000 solar home systems delivering clean and affordable energy to two million people. Over 80% of the population do not have access to electricity, which has an enormous impact on the country. Reliance on dirty and expensive forms of energy such as kerosene not only presents huge safety risks, but has larger consequences for the country’s development. MTN Uganda and Fenix International have developed a Ready Pay Power System, which generates solar energy to power lights, radios, televisions and even charges mobile phones. This can be paid off gradually using MTN’s mobile money service, which is accessible to 95% of Ugandans who lack energy access.
Telefónica has implemented over 700 projects to reduce energy consumption and are making significant efforts to transition to renewable energies in Valencia, Spain. To date, these intelligent insights have demonstrated energy consumption has already been cut by up to 35%. Telefonica has ambitious targets to tackle climate change aligned with the Paris Agreement. In 2016, they launched a Renewable Energy Plan to decarbonize its activity. It will enable them to consume 100% green electricity by 2030, and reduce carbon emissions by more than 50%. Telefonica is currently 100% renewable in Europe and Brazil. The Renewable Energy Plan is a global initiative implemented with a local perspective. It includes renewable purchase possibilities, like long term agreements (PPA), and also self-generation with more than 4300 sites working with renewable electricity. Telefónica was a joint-winner for the ‘Green Mobile Award’ at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019
Sourcing Green Energy
Verizon has set a goal to reduce carbon intensity by 50% against their 2016 baseline. Success to date in reducing carbon intensity has been made possible by copper-to-fibre migrations, investments in green energy, building improvements and changes in fleet operations. Carbon intensity progress has increased by 46% towards their 2025 carbon intensity goal.