According to reports,Telecom Equipment Manufacturers’ Association of India (TEMA) in a letter to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh said that telecom towers were eating away diesel subsidy to the tune of Rs 4,300 crore per year.
TEMA said the dependence on off-grid energy sources such as diesel generators sets has increased rapidly and cited a TRAI recommendation on green telecommunications.
TEMA said the number of telecom towers essential for providing connectivity to all areas has also gone up exponentially. As per TRAI figures, the total number of telecom towers in the country at the end of 2010 was about 400,000. It is estimated that presently India has about 500,000 telecom towers with an average power consumption of around 3-4 kW per tower site. TEMA said that almost 60% of the power requirement of telecom towers is met through use of Diesel Generator sets (DG Sets). The electricity available at the sites across major circles varies from 7-21 hours per day. There are hundreds of sites whose dependence on DG sets is almost 100%.
As per the TRAI recommendations issued in April 2011, approximately 8760 litres of diesel is consumed per year per site (assuming that on an average each site is operating for almost 8 hours on DG set), which works out to around 3.5 billion litres of diesel consumption by telecom towers alone. This alarming fact was even pointed out by the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, in June 2011, who had justifiably questioned the subsidy benefit to the telecom operating companies and had advocated for its withdrawal.
The subsidy works out to more than Rs 85,000 per tower per annum. This simply translates to a mind boggling figure of a total loss of more than Rs 4300 crore per annum to the exchequer. As per industry estimates, with the evolution of new technologies and services and for the extension of the telecom networks to unconnected rural and other areas, the country is expected to add another 300,000 towers in next five years.
Unless there are strong regulatory guidelines to enforce the implementation of power efficient solutions and to mandate the implementation of Green Tower sites using renewable energy alternates, the existing trends will continue and likely consumption of diesel would grow to almost 7 billion litres with the new additional towers in the next 5 year timeframe. Consequently the amount of CO2 emission is also going to take alarming proportions much more than the present figure of over 6 million tones.