Last week the GSMA, the mobile network operators’ industry body, published its second Mobile Green Manifesto. It’s an update of the 2009 report, highlighting the initial results from the GSMA’s Mobile Energy Efficiency (MEE) benchmarking and optimisation initiative as well as progress around mobile’s enabling role.
As part of the original Green Manifesto the GSMA said that it would reduce its total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per connection by 40% by 2020 compared to 2009.
Highlights from the report (which focuses on the network aspects of the mobile phone industry) include:
Mobile has the potential to enable emissions savings of at least 900 million tonnes CO2e in 2020 which is 1.7% of the global 2020 GHG emissions and five times the mobile industry’s emissions.
Total mobile network energy consumption increased only slightly from 2009 to 2010, despite considerable growth in mobile connections and traffic.
Total energy per unit traffic declined by approximately 20% and energy per connection declined by 5% from 2009 to 2010.
Most emissions savings enabled by mobile networks will be achieved through the use of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and dematerialisation applications, i.e. doing things via mobile phones rather than in person. Currently 26 million mobile M2M connections worldwide are enabling GHG emission savings, estimated to be about three million tones of CO2e annually.
The report also uses data and analysis from the MEE Benchmarking service to calculate the energy costs and the CO2e emissions that result from the electricity and diesel consumption of mobile networks globally. The analysis shows if all networks with above-average energy consumption were improved to the industry average, there is a potential energy cost saving for mobile operators of $1bn annually at 2010 prices – and improving to levels of the top quartile could save more than $2bn a year.
It’s interesting how these findings stack up with the Smart 2020 Report, which first established how ICT can be used as a tool to save CO2 emissions, rather than just a contributor to the problem. Smart 2020 came to the conclusion that ICT could save five times the emissions that it generated, which is what this GSMA report also says (five years later).
However, the conclusion is based on different estimates. The GSMA found that the GHG emissions of the mobile telecoms network industry are approximately 70 million tonnes for 2010, less than 0.2% of the global total. The report suggests that the Smart 2020 figures for mobile network emissions are too high.
We’re still talking savings potential, though - whether ICT will actually be used to make the gains remains to be seen. In a time of slow economies, with many countries still struggling to stay out of recession, there’s not much investment in green initiatives that don’t produce a fast financial pay-back. Fortunately, most current green initiatives are quickly reflected in the business bottom line.