Energy Storage Top of Mind for Telecom Tower Companies
At a recent conference in Delhi on the telecom infrastructure market in India, cost optimization, and not government policy, emerged as a key issue dominating the agenda for tower companies. Within these cost-conscious times, energy management has emerged as the ‘Holy Grail’ in the scale-up of the greening of the Indian telecom industry. And with the pan-India deployment of 3G and broadband wireless technologies, more energy storage will continue to be required.
But let’s backup a bit…India today has the second largest and fastest growing mobile telephone market in the world. The country has over 900 wireless subscribers and continues to add between 15 and 20 million new mobile subscribers each month. The number of telecom towers is currently around 400,000 and with the number of wireless subscriber to reach 1 billion over the next year, an additional built-out of 250,000 mobile towers will be required.
Given that many parts of the country are power deficient—where intermittent power is available – diesel generators account for 35 to 70% (urban-rural) of the power generator for a telecom tower, with the remainder met by grid-connected power. Approximately 2 billion of litres of diesel are consumed each year by power the telecom towers. With the rising costs of diesel (which is heavily subsized in India) and the pilferage concerns (in some places upwards of 26%), battery technology has emerged as the ‘black gold’, or oil equivalent, for the telecom sector. As a result, energy storage solutions will form an integral part of the strategy away from diesel and fossil-fuel power generation to renewable energy technology in India.
For example Indus Towers has reduced their energy costs by 18-20% by moving to renewable energy and battery solutions. In fact, the company has already made 9,000-10,000 sites diesel-free and is targeting to take this up to 20,000 sites by March 2013. Other energy efficient alternatives include eliminating the air conditioning, use of free cooling units, reducing the power consumption on the base station, and remote power management capabilities.
As we watch the telecom sector take steps to reduce their carbon footprint, we see opportunities in India for companies in energy management software, renewable energy generation, energy storage (fuel cells, batteries), smart grid, and traffic management.