According to reports, the government’s attempts to promote renewable power replacing diesel-guzzling telecom towers dotting the country may have run aground. The telecom companies are shy of the high capital costs that go with solar adoption. The government, however, is working on modalities for an early switch to green power.
The centre had accepted Trai’s recommendations on ‘Approach towards green telecommunications’ and the directions issued to service providers early last year that said at least 50 per cent of the rural towers and 20 per cent of those in urban areas would use hybrid power (renewable power and grid power) by 2015. By 2020, the breakup would be 75 per cent and 33 per cent, it said.
It also urged service providers should peg carbon emission reduction targets at five per cent by 2012-2013, at eight per cent by 2014-2015, at 12 per cent by 2016-2017 and at 17 per cent by 2018-2019.
“Telecom firms have been reluctant to adopt renewable power, citing lack of funds to take up work. The companies said their finances were tied-up over spectrum and other expenditures. They want government subsidy or third-party investment to set up solar or other renewable power units for telecom towers. The telecom firms are willing to pay the diesel power price, even a little more to investor-cum-power producers to source energy for the towers,” MNRE joint secretary Tarun Kapoor said.
Only 8,000-9,000 telecom towers that came up for renewal indicated adoption of renewable power and about 2,000 towers would be connected to biomass power, he added.
The telecom ministry has appointed a committee, which is working out various options to speed up adoption of green energy in telecom towers.
According to Trai estimates, the country has over 5.85 lakh mobile towers consuming more than 5.12 billion litres of diesel a year, with an average yearly consumption of 8,760 litres diesel every year per tower, assuming eight hours of operation by diesel generator sets. Also, fossil fuel is used for cooling the equipment. If all mobile towers adopt solar energy, it will save much fossil fuel and cut down carbon emissions. By rough estimates reduction of diesel consumption by 10 per cent would result in annual savings of over half a billion dollar.