CSR Interview : Rajesh Bansal on Indus Tower Green Sites Initiative

By shutting down diesel generators and adopting RET (renewable energy technologies) as secondary source of power, the telecom tower sector is helping the sector to achieve TRAI’s directive to reduce carbon emissions by 17% by the year 2018-19.

By Rusen Kumar

Rusen Kumar, Editor of India CSR Network talked to Rajesh Bansal, Vice President & National Head-Energy, Indus Towers on Indus Tower Green Sites initiative, which is a great initiative on Sustainability and energy conservation. Indus Tower is India’s largest telecom tower company. Rajesh Bansal has beautifully explained the insights of the initiative and how it is benefiting triple bottom line. Enjoy the reading:

What is the Indus Tower Green Sites initiative all about?

Indus Towers Ltd adopted Environment as one of its core values. Indus cell sites have telecom equipment that requires 24X7 year-round continuous power supply to support the service. Due to unreliable grid power availability in our country, Indus is forced to rely on Diesel generators as back up power. Diesel is not an environment friendly option. Indus Tower’s Green Sites Project was conceived to counter the need of diesel usage for power back up without compromising the network uptime. Launched in August 2011, the Indus Towers Green Sites Project was flagged off with 6 major cities – Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Palanpur and Gandhinagar – being declared Green. Green Cities are those cities with telecom sites within the limits of the Municipal Corporation, where no diesel would be consumed for cell site operations. We also saw a huge opportunity for site level transformation in many pockets where conversion of cities at the current level of technology was not feasible. Accordingly, the project focus transformed to a more micro level from Green City to Green Sites.

How is this initiative beneficial to the industry and the environment?

Our achievements displayed through various awards demonstrate our commitment towards reducing energy consumption and Carbon Dioxide emissions on a global level. We have continued to reduce our diesel consumption by ~50% and yet deliver over 99.95% uptime. This represents an opportunity for us to feature telecom as an energy efficient sector. We have also continued our focus on reducing diesel consumption further by removing AC’s from our sites and developing new age battery solutions for telecom tower environment etc. These innovative solutions helped us to reduce GHG emissions and cost. We have also been successful through a program called Shut AC – Shut DG. This initiative drew attention from the Industry and Indus was leading them to adopt this environment friendly best practice.

How many sites have been converted into green sites till date? What are you goals with respect to the Green Sites initiative?

As of February 2018, a total of 66,465 sites, comprising 52% of Indus’ portfolio of towers, are Green and in the coming 4-6 years we have a vision to be diesel-free in our operations. Being India’s largest telecom tower company, we are a driven entrepreneurial and innovative organisation committed towards growing our business in a sustainable manner, while remaining accountable to all our stakeholders.

How does Indus perceive environment as a part of the company’s Vision and Values?

We prioritise energy and climate change and consider it as one of the core values adopted by Indus. Indus Towers aims to inspire, guide and help ingrain sustainability within and across the business. With sustainability and environment playing a major role for us, coupled with the management’s approach of Design thinking, the Company is contributing to Digital India and Smart Cities by building new-age infrastructure. As we expand our network and infrastructure to cater to the growing demand of our services, we ensure that we efficiently curtail our impact on the environment as a whole.

Any recent achievements in the green space by Indus Towers?

Energy and climate change are one of the core values adopted by Indus and are a part of its long term Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG). Indus has taken on various projects and initiatives to fulfil these goals and has received awards and accolades for its achievements. Significant investments in various energy initiatives has led to absolute reduction of 212 million litres of annual diesel consumption over the last six years removing over 85,000 ACs and over 538 million kG of CO2 emission reduction.

We are extremely proud to say that Indus Towers has previously won the prestigious GSMA Green Mobile Award at the GSMA Awards Ceremony held in Barcelona, Spain in March 2015. It was our second win and our fourth nomination for the award. The GSMA Global Mobile Awards is well known to recognize and celebrate the contributions made to the ever-evolving mobile telecommunication industry. With this award, Indus’ Green Award tally goes up to 9 and hence this achievement speaks immensely about our green practices, initiatives and innovation, and is especially notable as it is recognized by industry bodies like the GSM Association, CII, KPMG-Qimpro and Amity.

What is the broad timeline for Indus to complete the task of converting sites to green sites?

Indus aims to be diesel free in the next 4-6 years and thus we pledge to make Indus towers a diesel free organization by year 2021. Our diesel consumption has almost halved since the past 6 years which has significantly reduced our carbon emissions. In FY 17-18, we have significantly reduced our diesel consumption by 29 mn Ltr, which is 11.60% reduction from last year and will continue to contribute towards this motive.

What are the innovative technologies inculcated by Indus to further the Green Site agenda?

Indus has also come up with other innovative ways of reducing expenses using technological solutions deployed at these sites. As all telecom equipment work under a temperature-controlled environment, we need to operate air conditioners at all the sites. By installing various types of Cooling Units, we allow heat transfer between the ambient and shelter when the temperature is low (winters and night time). This heat transfer results in reduced energy consumption and carbon emissions. 66000 FCUs have been installed so far. Additionally, 1100 sites have Smart Battery charging solutions for faster charging, leading to energy savings and this leads to the use of DC Diesel Generators results in operating expense savings as high as 46%.

The company has also implemented the state-of-the-art energy efficient products which empower the maximum electricity board (EB) utilization in lower voltages. We introduced modules which benefit the sites with frequent single phasing issues. Other energy efficiency products are also launched with low energy losses. These solutions have ensured further reduction in carbon footprint of the site.

Since Indus towers aims to be diesel free in 4-6 years, can you elaborate on the alternate technologies that will be used instead?

We believe in the usage of natural resources and hence have deployed renewable energy sources (Solar and Biomass) at over 1100 sites across India in last 3 years. Additionally, solar and wind as part of Renewable Energy Technologies (RET) were opted as long-term power solution for telecom towers in India. We plan to scale up our renewable energy deployment program and target to cover 50% of all telecom sites by year 2021. One of the major accomplishment towards reducing significant power consumption for a tower site has been replacing air-conditioning with Cooling Units. The telecommunications equipment needs a temperature controlled environment, and just like air-conditioners, the cooling units ensure heat transfer between ambient to the shelter, but at much reduced energy consumptions.

What do you think does the future hold for Green Sites in the telecom industry?

There has been a growing awareness amongst customers, specially with respect to towers and their impact on environment. This has led to some productive development towards its impact in the telecom sector. The telecom towers dependency on diesel is estimated to be around 2 billion litres per year, which adds about 5 tonnes of CO2 emissions, causing considerable damage to the environment. The expansion of mobile network coverage is directly proportional to the number of telecom towers and hence it is only through the incorporation of innovation and better technology along with the utilization of disruptive energy models, that the carbon footprint can be reduced, thus benefitting in lower operational costs and a sustainable environment. By shutting down diesel generators and adopting RET (renewable energy technologies) as secondary source of power, the telecom tower sector is helping the sector to achieve TRAI’s directive to reduce carbon emissions by 17% by the year 2018-19.

Can you emphasis on how Indus manages and minimizes its environmental footprint across the value chain for customers and communities?

Telecom infrastructure industry is undergoing transitional changes. With renewed focus on green telecom infrastructure, we are making inroads into becoming more socially responsible and laying greater emphasis on sustainability. We are committed to implementing energy efficient, emission reduction projects and waste minimisation initiatives to reduce our environmental footprint. As we expand our network and infrastructure to cater to the growing demand of our services, we ensure that we efficiently curtail our impact on environment. Solar and wind as renewable energy technologies (RET) are being used as long-term power solutions for telecom towers. We have already shifted our dependence from diesel generators as a primary source and significantly brought down carbon emissions through Green Sites.

Moreover, we have taken steps towards reducing significant power consumption at our tower sites by replacing air-conditioning with Cooling Units. The telecommunications equipment requires a temperature-controlled environment, and just like ACs, these CUs ensure heat transfer between ambient to the shelter, but at much reduced energy consumptions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the interviewee in this feature are entirely his own and does not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR Network and its Editor.

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