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Power Crisis, Unhealthy Alternatives and NCC’s Clean Energy Transition Quest

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Power Crisis, Unhealthy Alternatives and NCC’s Clean Energy Transition Quest

Telecommunications companies in South Africa have been battling to survive due to electricity power supply challenges which has prompted the regulatory authority to introduced load-shedding.

Helios Towers, one telecoms infrastructure company had to hold talks with mobile network operators (MNOs) about providing power-as-a-service to its sites in the country.

This is as the independent telecoms infrastructure company looks to alleviate load-shedding’s detrimental impact on network infrastructure.

South African MNOs have decried the effects of rolling blackouts on network quality and infrastructure.

Network towers and base stations often shut down during power cuts, resulting in poor connectivity, or even complete network outages, disrupting phone calls and internet connectivity, ITWeb recently reported.

Only recently, power cuts knocked out a large chunk of MTN’s earnings in South Africa.

In Nigeria the issues of power outage have become a nightmare to MNOs without exception, and in most cases the situation has resulted into poor quality service delivering.

To salvage the situation, the telecos in Nigeria run two generators in each base station that they operate across the country for them to effectively delivered quality service to not just the telecoms consumer but to the financial services sector that need them for the success of a digital economy.

But the huge fumes coming from the diesel generators of the several base stations spread across the nation has now become a source of concern to environmentalist.

And the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has equally raised the bar in the call for a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative power source for the telecoms industry in the country.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, recently at the 2023 World Consumer Day celebration, which it marked, he assured the MNOs of the NCC’s support for smooth transition to clean energy usage in the industry.

According to him, with the recent licensing of the Fifth Generation (5G) spectrum, Nigeria will witness an increased deployment of telecom infrastructure to satisfy the wireless service coverage requirement for 5G services.

He added that this anticipated growth in the number of 5G coverage will trigger high demand for data services which will result in increased energy consumption for the network infrastructure especially the Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), Internet of Things (IoT), 5G Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs) and mobile devices for example.

And as such, he urged the MNOs to look for green and sustainable power solutions required for the connectivity of IoT devices and network optimisation.

The EVC observed that owing to the overall energy challenges of the nation, the fifty-four (54) thousand BTS scattered across the country depend on diesel generators with the attendant noise and environmental pollution.

According to him, some of these BTS operate on diesel generators for 24 hours across seven days of the week in some locations, and that the Commission, as a responsive world-class organisation, has been proactive in responding to the realities and challenges posed by the impact of using fossil fuel as a power source in the telecommunications industry.

As a result, he said the NCC is backing transitioning to a renewable energy source like solar power will significantly reduce the menace of pollution from individually-powered generators.

He expressed confidence that such will be zero carbon emission from the BTS just as noise pollution would be a thing of the past.

Danbatta explained further that all over the globe, telecom companies are among the biggest energy users because of the stiff industry competition which causes them to try to satisfy their consumers by providing higher-speed networks.

He however observed that with the rising utility costs, it is critical for companies to reconsider the sustainability of their operations by lowering the operational impact on the environment.

“This is more so because it has been found that implementing energy efficiency measures could potentially reduce the operating costs of telcos by up to 20%”, he noted.

Harping further the need to embrace fossil fuels, he said that it will minimize the environmental impacts of climate change caused by carbon emissions, telecom network providers need to come up with a modern and more energy-efficient network.

“This includes the use of Solar-powered Cells, wireless electricity or a hybrid system to replace higher energy-consuming equipment that will lead to a reduction in capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operational expenditure (OPEX) and by implication, a reduction in service costs to consumers”, Danbatta noted.

According to him, transitioning to renewable energy will result in a lower cost of operation as operators will be able to save on the cost of diesel, which accounts for a large chunk of the costs incurred by these licensees.

He said: “The competition that the Commission consistently promotes among industry players has a natural consequence of the savings on the cost of diesel passed on to consumers, which would potentially result in lower prices for services.”

To further demonstrate the commitment of the NCC to alternative energy transition, the NCC is presently working on a policy to encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources by operators.

When operational, the Policy will resolve the three key needs of the telecom industry, namely: reduction in diesel usage; expansion of telecom infrastructure to off-grid areas; and reduction in carbon emissions.

The annual tech innovation competitions organise for young innovators is also expected to address the challenges of renewable energy.

As recently revealed by the regulator, some of the entries submitted are in the process of being commercialized as the innovators are seeking investors to make their discoveries available to the public.

It is hoped that with the NCC alternative energy transition quest and the subsequent response of the MNOs, the South African power case may not be replicated in the country.

CREDIT: Technology Mirror

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