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TRAI wants telcos to disclose their carbon footprint, panel to monitor emissions

Telcos should disclose their carbon footprint levels publicly, and ‘provide full information’ about the technique used for calculating their carbon emissions, India’s telecom regulator TRAI said in a consultation paper titled “Approach towards Sustain able Telecommunications” (pdf). It also examined the need to create an external committee for monitoring carbon emissions by telcos and to ensure credibility of carbon footprint reports released by telcos.

In the consultation paper, TRAI also asked if there is need to change or adapt to a new method to calculate carbon footprint in the granular level by individually calculating emissions from switching centers, towers, fibre network control units, among others. Currently the telecom industry measures carbon footprint by considering:

i) Emission levels from combustion (burning) of non-renewal fossil fuels,
ii) Usage of purchased electricity from power grids and Diesel Power sets.

The regulator also discussed the need for using renewable energy technology (RET) to power telecom networks and towers and suggested incentives to telecom operators who adapt renewable power sources. This was earlier recommended in 2014 by a DoT panel (on renewable energy), which said that telcos could have a license fee rebate of 1%, 2%, and 3% in case they use renewable sources to power 20%, 35% and 50% of their towers respectively. TRAI added that renewable energy projects deployed by telcos could further be extended for used by small communities.

In addition, TRAI looked at setting mandatory “minimum renewable energy targets” for telcos and time-frame for operators to achieve these targets. As per the DoT panel, consumption of diesel and non-renewable resources by mobile networks needs to be cut down by 17% by the year 2018-19. The panel also suggested sharing of tower/network infrastructure and equipment among telcos to save power resources.

Current status of renewable energy usage by telcos 

– Out of the 4,50,000 telecom towers in the country, only 90,000 are diesel-free sites as of Dec 2016.

– Out of 1,50,030 towers owned by Airtel, only 37,262 run on less or optimized diesel consumption including 3,501 sites powered by solar energy. This implies that only 2.3% of Airtel’s towers are powered by renewable energy sources.

-Indus towers, the joint venture between Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular manages around 1.23 lakhs towers. Out of this only 60,000 sites are diesel free and around 1,000 sites run on solar as of Dec 2016.

-Various telcos deployed a total of 400 renewable energy projects with support Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) while telcos have independently setup 3400 renewable energy projects based on solar, winds, battery-powered cells among others.

Questions for consultation

Stakeholders, telcos and general public can forwards their recommendations and answers to fn@trai.gov.in; trai.ifn@gmail.com; or ja3nsl@trai.gov.in by 27th February 2017.

Q.1) What accuracy level may be set for collecting the data and also, what should be the basis for arriving at this threshold level? Please comment with justification.

Q.2) Is there a need for auditing the carbon footprint of a telecom network by a third party auditor? If yes what is the mechanism proposed? Please comment with justification.

3) Do you agree with the given approach for calculating the carbon footprint? If not, then please comment with justification.

Q.4) Whether the existing formulae for calculation of Carbon footprints from Grid (given in paras 1.16, 1.17 and 1.1.8) of Chapter I need to be modified? If so, please comment with justification.

Q.5) Which emission factors as mentioned in Table 1.2 of Chapter I need to be used for the calculation (Average/OM/BM/CM)? Is there any other factor(s) needs to be considered in the calculation? Please comment with justification.

Q.6) Is the formula mentioned in para 1.22 of Chapter I suitable for calculation of Carbon footprints from Grid supply? Please comment with justification.

Q.7) Which of the formula, (i) or (ii) as given in para 1.23. of Chapter I is to be used for the calculation of carbon footprints from the Diesel generator along with views on possible values of ? ??? ? ? Please comment with justification.

Q.8) For calculation of average carbon footprint, which of the options mentioned in para 1.25 of Chapter I is to be used? Please comment with justification.

Q.9) What are the options available for renewable energy solutions which may be harnessed to their maximum potential to power the telecom sector? Please comment with justification.

Q.10) If electricity generated by a RET project (funded/ maintained by TSP) is also used for community, should it be subtracted from overall carbon emission of a TSP? Please comment with justification.

Q.11) If the RET project is funded/ maintained by other agency, should that emission be counted? Please comment with justification.

Q.12) Please comment with justification on the approach suggested by the DoT committee.

Q.13) For effective implementation of RET/Energy efficient solutions in telecom sector, how can the industry be supported? Should incentives be provided to licensees (TSPs)? If yes, what should be the milestone? Please comment with justification.

Q.14) What methodology can be proposed for setting new Renewable energy targets in the telecom sector? What should be the timeframe for achieving these targets? Please comment with justification.

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