India has around 300,000 Telecom Towers around the country , a large portion of which is not connected to the electricity grid.Another large portion does not have access to reliable electricity implying they have to install backup power systems in order to run without interruptions.Diesel Generators have been the choice of telecom operators despite their high carbon imprint.This is because of the ease of buying and installing diesel generators as well as the lower fuel costs as the government in India heavily subsidizes diesel.Note India’s Fossil Fuel Subsidies have led to hundreds of distortions in the economy.Corruption,Pilfering,Adulteration is carried out on a large scale due to government subsidies.In fact a senior government official was burnt alive by the Kerosene Mafia a direct outcome of this subsidy policy.But that is a separate issue.
Telecom Towers are estimate to burn 2 Billion Liters of Diesel ( around 500 million barrels) annually at a cost of Rs 7000 crores.While the government has been trying to convert these towers to renewable energy forms,most of the tower operators have been very slow to implement this change.Indus Towers the largest one plans only 2.5% conversion while the others like GTL,Viom and American Tower are doing only marginally better.Note there are easy solution to this problem with alternatives like Fuel Cells,Small Wind and Bio Diesel.But the private operators are only interested in the money and without serious government prodding won’t move.Diesel Prices can easily move up 30-40%,if the government removes the subsidy.This will really make these Telecom Operators move quickly towards renewable energy instead of the their putting Lipstick on the Diesel Pig.Note most of the telecom expansion will now happen in rural areas where almost every tower will burn more Oil.
Indian telecom infrastructure companies, including Indus Towers, American Tower Company, GTL and Viom Networks (erstwhile Tata Quippo), that depend heavily on diesel generators to power more than 3.5 lakh towers across India, are conducting pilot tests on solar, wind energy, bio-diesel and fuel cell-based equipment and rolling out clean energy solutions strategy.
Telecom towers consume more than 2 billion litres of diesel in a year, to meet 60% power requirement, telecom regulator Trai said.
Last year, 7,000 crore was spent on diesel needed to run 3.5 lakh towers. These high input costs also result in high pollution. The renewable energy ministry had asked telecom companies to reduce their dependency on conventional fuels and consider alternatives for partly powering telecom towers.
While some tower creators are looking at compressed natural gas and piped natural gas to power towers, Indus Towers, the largest with over 1 lakh towers in India, will set up 2,500 solar towers by September this year.
Viom Networks, which operates more than 38,000 towers across India, plans to run more than one-fourth of this number on alternative energy within the next two years. It plans to run 2,000 towers on solar power alone by 2013.
Keeping cost benefits as one of its primary concerns, American Tower Corporation conducted trials using solar power in Pune, Maharashtra and cut its monthly costs of running diesel generator sets, or gen-sets, by half to 8,000.
Another tower major GTL will use a combination of solar and bio-diesel based energy solutions to bring down overall energy consumption by one-fifth over a period of time.