According to reports, tower company Bharti Infratel will soon invite bids for buying solar energy solutions worth $300 million from international suppliers for powering about 8,000 sites in its bid to cut diesel costs, executives aware of the development said.
Sweden’s Flexenclosure AB, China’s Huawei and ZTE are among the key providers of environment-friendly energy solutions and are likely to pitch for the upcoming tender. It is not known if Bharti will opt for multiple vendors or go with a single one.
Bharti Infratel is the hived off tower arm of Bharti Airtel and operates in seven of the 22 regions in the country with about 33,000 towers and is slated to invest in an additional 4,000 units this year.
Bharti refused to reveal tender specifics or comment on Infratel’s upcoming investment plans.
Close to 9,000 sites of Infratel located in rural India are not fed by grid electricity, which is the rationale behind the company exploring solar energy solutions.
Its decision to invest sizeable sums in green energy technologies comes on the heels of its recent pilot, the GreenTowers P7 initiative, which focussed sharply on reducing diesel usage and carbon emissions across its tower network.
Indian tower firms jointly have about 400,000 sites and splurge a whopping Rs 8,500 crore annually on diesel, according to consultancy firm AT Kearney. Off these, about 70,000 are not fed by grid power, but only about 5,000 have switched to solar power since the cost of powering towers through solar energy can be exorbitant at Rs 40 per unit when compared to Rs 6 per unit for grid power.
The capital cost involved in making a diesel-powered tower site go solar is pegged at roughly $35,000 (Rs 19.6 lakh), implying that Infratel may have to shell out about $280 million for this initiative, an executive privy to the developments said.
Sector regulator Trai had recently directed tower companies to minimise dependence on diesel and expedite steps to reduce carbon emissions by running a chunk of their rural and urban towers on hybrid power by 2015.