Environment

How China Mobile recharged

Telco’s energy savings equivalent to taking 1.7 million cars of the road

Transformer: telco goes green

Last week, China Mobile announced that it had agreed with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to reduce its power consumption by 20% by the end of December 2012.

The savings translate to a whopping 11.8 billion kilowatts/hour of electricity, says Guangming Daily.

That is a reduction in carbon footprint equivalent to taking 1.7 million cars off the road for a year.

The mobile giant also promised that it would build more base stations (the infrastructure that supports the wireless network) that rely on renewable energy like wind and solar power. Although the 5,000 renewable power stations make up only a small percentage of the 400,000 installed base, the company already tops the rankings of global telecom carriers using renewable energy.

The announcements on China Mobile’s efforts to “go green” are part of the company’s participation in the Green Manifesto, a global drive to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Li Zhengmao, executive vice president at the telecom giant, China Mobile first began favouring power-saving products in its procurement efforts three years ago.

And in 2008, China Mobile joined The Climate Group, a London-based environmental watchdog that advocates a low-carbon economy.

It has already reduced electricity consumption per unit revenue by 31%, says Li.

In addition, it has signed agreements with 53 information technology, telecoms and equipment vendors for the recycling of handsets and batteries – both environmental waste hazards (see WiC29). Changes in how the company uses air conditioning to keep its telecom equipment at a cooler temperature – an area accounting for a quarter of its electricity consumption – also led to significant savings.

The efforts to go green help the bottom line too. Li says the company’s commitment to renewable energy goes far beyond an attempt to look fashionable. Renewable power base stations also turn out to be cheaper to build and operate than a number of the traditionally-powered ones.

In the long run, all of this could deliver impressive savings too. Last year, utilities charges – or power – made up about 16% of the company’s Rmb269.7 billion in operating expenses.

Wang Jiazhou, chairman of China Mobile agrees: “[Cutting electricity consumption] will help China Mobile reduce capital expenditure in coming years to combat slowing growth.”

Among the chief beneficiaries of China Mobile’s green initiatives is Huawei Technologies, the country’s leading telecom equipment maker (see WiC38). Huawei has been building many of the base stations that run on renewable energy.

So China Mobile seems to be doing its best to minimise its own environmental impact.

But the critics worry that other sectors are not doing more too. After all, the telecom industry is hardly a big consumer of energy. China’s telecom and IT sectors consume only 2% of the country’s power.

But China Mobile still thinks it can punch above its weight in terms of its contribution.

“We can help increase the efficiency of other industries and reduce their energy consumption and emissions by providing them information technologies,” Li told the China Daily.

In Tianjin, for instance, China Mobile developed a long-range dispatch system that improves the efficiency of the city’s taxi allocation process, not only saving fuel but also helping to reduce traffic problems in the city.

With the Copenhagen climate conference approaching, China Mobile’s own initiatives may also inspire other China corporates to pursue a greener path too.


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