GSMA hails ‘meaningful progress’ as new figures reveal mobile operators’ push for renewable energy, Sustainability

London: As climate leaders meet at COP27 in Egypt, new figures from the GSMA have revealed that global mobile operators are making strong progress in maximizing the use of renewable energy in their networks.

However, a survey indicates that access to an additional 64 terawatts (TWh) of renewable electricity – roughly equivalent to Austria’s annual energy use – will be required by operators worldwide by 2030 as they seek to decarbonise their energy supplies. These requirements were detailed in the recent GSMA Approach to Renewable Energy Policy Paper.

The mobile industry was among the first to commit to achieving Net Zero by 2050, and since COP26, mobile operators have increased the amount of renewable electricity used to power their networks to meet science-based targets.

The new analysis published by the GSMA today, using data from 33 operators, covering 86 countries and approximately 50% of global mobile connections, shows tangible results, with renewable electricity use increasing across the mobile sector:

  • European networks lead worldwide, purchasing on average 71% renewable energy.
  • Mobile networks in 41 of the 86 countries surveyed use more than 75% renewable energy
  • Mobile networks in 29 of the 86 countries use less than 25% renewable energy
  • 32% of renewable used by operators is obtained through power purchase agreements with power generators
  • 63% is achieved through renewable energy certificates from electricity markets
  • 4% results from self-production of renewable electricity

The figures show that operators in Europe and North America have been able to both access and increase the amount of renewable electricity used to power their networks in recent years. In contrast, accessing renewable electricity continues to be a challenge in many countries, demonstrated by lower market-based regional figures across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America.

John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA, said: “Operators are making significant progress in the use of renewable energies to power communications networks. However, given the scale of demand, the GSMA is calling for greater collaboration between the private and public sectors to expand the renewable energy infrastructure needed to hit our net zero ambitions This will require reducing regulatory barriers, supporting market-based mechanisms to access renewable electricity and encouraging investment in new renewable electricity generation.

Initiatives such as Vodafone’s recently announced opt-in purchase agreement to buy renewable energy generated from three new solar farms in the UK have shown that concerted action with national policy makers and energy generators can ensure that more renewable energy can be rapidly added to. power grids over the next decade.

Joakim Reiter, Vodafone’s Head of External and Corporate Affairs said: “After switching Vodafone’s European networks and operations to renewable energy, we are also taking important steps in Africa. But accelerating the industry’s transition to renewables everywhere, in a fairer way , will require significantly greater collaboration between the public and private sectors. Governments are increasingly embracing the enabling potential of telecommunications itself to reduce carbon across society. This should go hand-in-hand with leveraging the telecommunications sector to attract long-term investment in renewable energy generation, increasing its availability and accessibility as part of national plans to strengthen energy security and stimulate future economic and social development.”

Based on UN RaceToZero research for COP26, the mobile industry should aim to decarbonize 70% of its electricity use by 2030.[1].

Governments meeting at COP-27 must seize without delay the opportunity that renewable electricity provides to support the private sector in achieving its net zero goals. More must be done to match the commercial demand for renewables and generate long-term energy deals, improving grid capacity and investor confidence.

[1] https://racetozero.unfccc.int/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/2030-breakthroughs-upgrading-our-systems-together.pdf

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