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Viewpoint | 18 Dec 2019

What is Vodafone UK doing to combat climate change?

Climate change is a critical issue facing everyone on this planet. We all have to reduce our energy consumption and the amount of carbon dioxide and waste we produce. But what are the best ways of going about it?

John Teasdale, Senior Manager, Infrastructure Planning Rationalisation for Vodafone UK, explains some of the best options for the company.

Vodafone UK accounts for more than a tenth of Vodafone Group’s global energy consumption, despite being just one of 24 markets the company operates in. This equates to an annual electricity bill in the tens of millions of pounds.

So we have a lot to do to reduce our carbon footprint.

By 2025, Vodafone Group has committed to:

  • sourcing 100% of our electricity from renewables (wind, solar, hydro)

  • reducing our carbon dioxide emissions by 50% (compared to 2017 levels).

How are we going to achieve this?

Producing our own energy

We can’t say too much about this at the moment as our plans are commercially confidential and covered by non-disclosure agreements with our partners, but Vodafone UK is planning to develop its own solar farm, hopefully within the next couple of years.

This major construction project could reduce our electricity bill by tens of millions over 25 years and markedly reduce our CO2 emissions.

Solar farm at ground level

Credits: Shutterstock

Credits: Shutterstock
Vodafone UK’s own solar farm would help the company reduce CO2 emissions significantly

We’re also reviewing whether to install solar panels on the roof tops of many of our buildings across the country, and exploring the possibility of sourcing electricity generated from bio-methane, a by-product of waste processing.

Becoming more energy efficient

The biggest energy-consuming elements of the business are the masts, antennae, mobile telephone exchanges and data centres that send and receive your calls, messages and internet traffic. And as demand for our services is increasing, we face a significant challenge to manage a related rise in energy consumption.

So we are leveraging our technical capabilities and internet of things expertise to develop a “Smart Site” solution at our radio base stations. This involves a combination of lithium-ion batteries, remote monitoring sensors and controllers, all supported by an analytics and reporting platform.

This new technology removes the requirement for traditional lead-acid batteries and reduces the need for mechanical cooling, that is, using power to cool and circulate air around the site. This also reduces CO2 emissions.

We’re also looking at more efficient ways to cool our data centres, maximising free cooling and installing on-site dynamic thermal management systems. And we’re switching to LED lighting where we can.

Sourcing our energy in a smarter way

As a big user of energy, we have influence in the market. We can incentivise the development of renewable energy installations through the use of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).

These highly specific contracts between Vodafone and renewable energy developers detail everything from the price per kilowatt hour to how much energy will be generated. By locking in prices for set periods of time – as long as 15 to 20 years – energy generators have the financial stability they need to invest in renewable energy sources.

In return, we get a traceable electricity supply verifiably based on renewable energy. So we plan to increase the number of PPAs dramatically. This will create a virtuous circle – more demand for green power leads to more supply which can then meet even more demand, benefiting us all.

  • Expect to hear much more about Vodafone UK’s environmental and energy reduction projects in 2020 as our Group-wide Planet project gains momentum.