Tower of Power - Rethinking Power Backup to Fight Climate Change

17th November, 2020

It is time for mobile operators to rethink power backup for telecom towers. From an insurance policy that is critical to have but only used for a fraction of the time, to a vital tool in reducing energy costs and fighting climate change.

We are on the verge of a new technological paradigm. If 4G gave us smartphones and all the information in the world at our fingertips, 5G will give us a truly connected world. One where not only humans are connected via their phones, but where everything is connected: from cars and refrigerators to industrial robots and 3D printers.

“In a world where everything is connected all the time, connectivity must never be lost. The increasingly connected world needs great power backup. And lots of it,” says Stefan Jansson, founder, and CEO for fast-growing Swedish energy storage solutions provider Polarium.

The implications of the 5G paradigm for mobile operators are profound. They need to guarantee close to 100 percent uptime, as tolerance for interruptions falls when more and more critical applications are connected. Meanwhile, 5G requires a denser network infrastructure, with more base stations in a given area. In addition, carbon emissions need to be reduced to reach sustainability goals and offset expected increases in carbon pricing.

Energy consumption already amounts to 20-40 percent of network operating expenditures and networks make up 80 percent of mobile operators’ greenhouse gas emissions. 5G networks will devour at least twice the amount of energy as today’s networks.

Mobile operators must therefore rethink how they use power backup. It is currently an underutilized asset, especially in those parts of the world where the grid is stable.

“Power backup is often seen as an insurance policy: critical to have, but only used for a fraction of the time in the event of power outages. Rather, power backup should be seen as the operator’s best friend in reducing their energy bill and fighting climate change,” continues Jansson.

Lithium powered backup solutions can be used to store renewable energy. The main challenge with renewable energy is that it might not be produced when it is needed most. By storing energy when it is abundant and cheap, to then be used when it is scarce and expensive, the telecom industry can cut costs and reduce fossil fuels from their networks.

In this way, tower sites become power sites that help solve some of mobile operators’ most pressing issues: enabling connectedness; reducing energy costs at a time when energy consumption is expected to double; and making the world more sustainable.

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