According to reports, Pune-based Creative Mark Engineering Solutions and Mahindra & Mahindra have been selected by private telecom tower companies for supplying renewable energy.
At least 25 renewable energy service companies (rescos) had expressed interest in the project.
Tower companies including Indus, Bharti Infratel, American Tower Corporation and Viom had floated a joint proposal for the project.
Under this project, the rescos will set up renewable energy-based power plants near the telecom towers and sell power to the telecom company at a pre-determined cost on a pay-per-use model. The power generated by the rescos will be off-grid. But additional power generated by them can also be sold to commercial users living in areas where the power plants are located.
The Tower and Infrastructure Providers’ Association (TAIPA) had floated the Request for Proposal inviting NGOs and private green power companies to generate and supply off-grid power to telecom towers in the country. This comes in the wake of TRAI’s recent regulation directing all telecom service providers to ensure that part of the power that is used for the towers comes from renewable sources.
Under the new rules, at least 50 per cent of towers and 20 per cent of the urban towers are to be powered by hybrid energy sources (renewable and grid) by 2015. The move is aimed at reducing carbon emissions due to increased dependence on diesel.
Umang Das, Director-General, TAIPA and Chief Mentor, Viom Networks Ltd, said, “Our infrastructure is a national asset that has multi-sector applications going much further than telecom. Towers can facilitate green energy for rural India, financial and health inclusion, e-education and a host of e-governance services.”
Most of the tower companies are struggling as mobile companies have gone slow on fresh roll-outs. To help tower companies raise funds, the Government recently included the telecom tower industry in the list of harmonised infrastructure sub-sectors.
Akhil Gupta, Chairman, TAIPA and Deputy Group CEO & Managing Director of Bharti Enterprises, said, “The harmonised infrastructure status offers new gateways of growth for the sector and provides a platform for public private partnership in the industry.”
The telecom tower infrastructure is a highly capital-intensive sector and the benefits of accelerated depreciation would encourage further investments in expanding the telecom infrastructure to rural areas. Infrastructure status raises the limit of external commercial borrowing.
“The normal lending rates of banks are 12-13% for 5-7 years. Infrastructure status to telecom towers leads to extension in bank loan repayment period to 10–15 years. Moreover, the interest rates would settle much lower (around 3–4 per cent compared to 12–13 per cent),” said a report from Ernst & Young.