TRAI wants telcos to switch off diesel gensets

The telecom regulator has invited feed-back on an industry-wide transition to clean energy. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has suggested htat a total switch-over from diesel would save nearly 200 crore litre of diesel or Rs 6,500 crore per year.

“With the double whammy of increasing energy consumption and rising cost of fossil fuel, it is important that the focus shifts to energy efficient technologies and alternate sources of energy,” the regulator said, initiating the industry discussion.

The regulator also came up with estimates of just how much diesel is being spent by telecom operators in India. Unlike previous estimates that only around 10% of the 3 lakh towers were on Diesel, the regulator said nearly 60% of the energy was being supplied by diesel. It pointed out that even though as many as 85% of the towers are connected to the electricity grid, only 10% of the total towers have regular power supply.

“Due to the precarious power situation about 40% of the telecom towers have grid or electricity Board power availability of less than 12 hours.. 40% power requirements [of the all the towers] are met by grid electricity and 60% by diesel generators,” the regulator went on.

Out of the total power consumed by a telecom firm, its network — which includes both the cells and backbone networks — uses 86% of the energy and 65% of the total is used by the cell towers alone.

However, TRAI pointed out that the power usage of each tower is very high — at around 10 units per hour — and therefore a pure solar solution may not work and diesel generators may have to be kept for back-up.

TRAI also pointed out that an average GSM consumer emits 25kg of Carbon Dioxide a year and a 3G user, 30kg per year.

It also added that any operator that can show a reduction in emission can trade its reduction certificate at the rate of around $15 per tonne of Carbon Dioxide saved per year. In 2006 alone, the total sale of such certificates was around $5 billion, with each certificate corresponding to one tonne of Carbon Dioxide saved.

“The Indian government has approved more than 1,400 projects as part of the Clean Development Mechanism that could attract around $6 billion into the country by 2012 through sale of Certified Emission Reduction (CER) certificates5. A 6.5-megawatt (MW) wind energy project in the state of Madhya Pradesh was issued 10,413 CER for offsetting green house gas emissions over a 13-month period,” it pointed out.