Telecoms to Triple Electricity Consumption, Boosting Growth of Distributed Energy Generation

by | Feb 9, 2021

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With LTE and 5G upgrades in emerging and developing markets anticipated to more than triple electricity consumption, telecom operators are increasingly deploying distributed renewable energy generation technologies and distributed energy storage systems, according to research from Guidehouse Insights.

According to a new report, global telecom network providers are expected to install nearly 121.9 GW of cumulative new distributed renewable energy generation technologies and distributed energy storage systems capacity between 2021 and 2030.

In addition to increased energy consumption from LTE and 5G upgrades, factors driving growth of the market include a low revenue-growth environment, rising global electricity prices, and the increasing number of mobile broadband users. However, stakeholders are increasingly concerned with the effect this exponential increase in data traffic will have on the energy consumption and carbon footprint of mobile networks.

Telecom operators account for 2% to 3% of total global energy demand, making them some of the most energy-intensive companies in their geographic markets. “With more than 90% of network cost spent on energy, consisting mostly of fuel and electricity, the demand for energy-saving measures from telecom operators is growing,” says Ricardo F. Rodriguez, research analyst with Guidehouse Insights.

According to the report, nearly three-quarters of internet users are expected to access the internet via smartphones by 2025 — the equivalent of nearly 3.7 billion people. The increasing number of mobile broadband users combined with the emergence of data-heavy mobile applications will likely drive exponential growth in mobile data traffic through 2030 and beyond, creating strong economic development.

Research published in 2018 by mobile phone maker Ericsson indicated that the overall telecommunications industry accounts for about 1.4% of emissions worldwide, with personal devices — including phones, tablets, computers and modems — making up the biggest share of the telecommunications industry’s carbon footprint. Device-related emissions account for about 50% of the telecom industry’s worldwide emissions; the other is associated with device life cycle.

Networks and data centers account for the next biggest share of emissions in the telecom industry, according to the research (via AZoCleantech).

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