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Indian Telcos seek tips on reducing ‘carbon emissions’

According to reports, the telecom industry is set to broaden the mandate of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and ask it to recommend ways to help operators reduce carbon emissions, and not just examine the feasibility and need for viability gap funding of powering 3.5 lakh mobile towers with alternative energy.

The industry is likely to urge PwC’s Indian arm to suggest steps to help operators meet the telecom department’s “go-green” targets set in January 2012.

“PwC India’s terms of reference is likely to be broadened by seeking its suggestions on reducing carbon emissions,” said a senior executive representing Tower & Infrastructure Providers Association (Taipa), the industry body for telecom tower companies.

“Apart from examining initiatives undertaken by telcos, PwC India may be asked to examine the viability of alternate technologies like batteries as a cost-effective tool for reducing carbon emissions,” the official added. At present, DoT and the ministry for new & renewable energy (MNRE) do not regard batteries as a green energy source as they are storage devices.

PwC India may also be asked to also assess whether India’s green telecom policy is aligned with global standards on containing carbon emissions as specified by Geneva-based International Telecom Union (ITU).

India’s go-green laws require mobile phone companies to migrate 50% of all cell towers in rural areas and 20% in urban areas to hybrid power by 2015. Hybrid power has been defined as a mix of grid supplies and renewable energy based on solar, wind, biomass or fuel cells.

The task gets even more stringent by 2020, when the operators will need to run 75% and 33% of cell towers in rural and urban zones, respectively, on hybrid supplies. Furthermore, the policy requires operators to lower carbon emissions by 17% in the next five years.

The decision to engage PwC India was a joint initiative of telecom operators operating on GSM and CDMA platforms along with tower operators in consultation with DoT, especially since the industry maintains that it can’t afford the huge expenses needed to set up capacity to generate alternate sources of energy such as solar, fuel cells or wind to meet the government’s green targets.

A top executive of a leading GSM operator said, “PwC India will also be asked to examine the feasibility of telcos shifting to solar and hybrid batteries and using a combination of free cooling units (FCUs), outdoor sites, lithium batteries and fuel cells to optimise energy usage and check diesel spends for reducing carbon emissions.” DoT is likely to convene a meeting on November 7 with all telecom industry stakeholders to seek an update from PwC India on a viable funding model for deploying capex-intensive energy technologies, the Taipa official said.

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