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Indian Telecom Companies appropriating $500 million of Fuel Subsidies for Poor and generating > 5 million tons of Carbon through Massive Diesel Burning in Telecom Towers

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Indian Telecom Companies are using more than $500 million in fuel subsidies meant for the poor and generating more than 5 million tons of carbon dioxide every year by using diesel gensets at telecom towers not connected to the grid.Note the Telecom Industry in India has not exactly covered itself with glory on other matters with the 2G Telecom Scam already putting top executives in jail and implicating top telecom companies as well.The issues of massive fuel wastage in telecom towers has been raised in the past in greenworldinvestor as telecom tower companies viom,gtl,airtel and others have tried to put lipstick on the pig by making a mockery of green initiatives by committing to convert only a miniscule number of total towers to renewable energy.

India’s Perverse Fuel Subsidy Scheme also to Blame as it allows massive corruption

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.

Greenpeace takes up the issue against Diesel Burning by Telcos

Global environment group Greenpeace has taken up the issue and started a campaign against the biggest telecom operator Airtel.According to Greenpeace.Readers are urged to sign up as it still needs a lot of support to force the telecom companies to look for green solutions especially as it will help them in the future as well as the clean energy capex today will pay itself in the future years in the form of avoided cost of diesel which will only get more expensive.The government has formed a high powered panel to look into the issue of billions of litres of diesel being burned by the telecom industry but it does not seem to be doing anything with any urgency.

Telecom industry’s “diesel exploitation” exposed

Greenpeace released a report “Dirty Talking – A case for telecom to shift from diesel to renewable” today exposing how the subsidy on diesel has been aggressively exploited by the telecom sector, resulting in an annual loss of around Rs 2600 crore to the state exchequer (1).

The report builds on the previous industry and government research which show that at current growth rates, the sector would require 26 billion KWh of electricity and 3 billion litres of diesel by 2012, contributing to a much larger carbon footprint than previously estimated (2).

Key findings of the report can be summarised as:

  • The telecom sector in India emitted over 5.6m tonnes of CO2 in 2008 on as a result of diesel use (3).Emissions have since risen, and are likely to increase significantly with the sector’s predicted exponential growth over the next few years.
  • A shift in power sourcing to renewable technologies, such as solar photovoltaic, will result in a close to 300 per cent reduction in total costs (CAPEX + OPEX) for telecom operators, in comparison to a diesel generator (DG) based tower over ten years.
  • Failure of the industry in disclosing its carbon emissions and committing to reduction of emissions in a public and transparent manner on a consistent basis. Major telecom companies within the sector are particularly guilty of this (4).
  • Similarly, telecom operators have yet to shift the sourcing of their power requirements to renewable sources at scales of significance. The investment required to power the entire network towers in the country by renewable is approximately Rs 151000 crore, which is more economically feasible than diesel based network towers in the longer run (5).
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    Abhishek Shah

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