In India, nearly a billion people use mobile phones and a network of broadcast masts to keep them talking. To keep these towers working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a lot of energy is consumed. Even though most towers located in the urban areas are usually connected to the main grid, most locations in India do not get a continuous or good quality grid supply. Additionally, more than 60% of the broadcast towers depend on diesel-powered generators.
Each mast consumes about the same amount of energy as an average urban household. But with 400,000 masts across the country, the total energy consumed is huge and a switch towards cleaner energy is needed.
The Indian Telecom industry is one of the main consumers of diesel in the country at nearly 2 billion litres every year. This is both expensive and polluting. The solution is hybrid power, a combination of renewable and grid power. The local telecom regulator has recommended that companies reduce their dependency on diesel and cut carbon emissions by 50% at all rural towers and 20% at urban towers.
To do so, companies need about $15,000 additional investment, which is a significant amount in the current economic climate. However, the savings of using hybrid power are significant too. Especially Solar Energy is considered as one of the most efficient alternative sources of energy in India.
The problem is that Telecom companies cannot afford to take on the role of electricity generation themselves, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to make money.
OMC Power is a company that is setting up micro-power plants in rural locations for telecom companies. They will tap into green energy sources like solar, wind and biogas, and provide a clean power source in remote areas. According to Anil Raj of OMC Power, there is going to be a big shift in the way power is consumed in India. Currently, there are very large power plants and inefficient transmission networks. Consequently, there is a need to generate and consume power locally. The biggest challenge however is the commercial viability of green power. Unless an effective clean energy model is developed soon, many fear that fuel costs will bleed an industry that is already heavily in debt.